LIFE DIGEST: Berkeley sends coat hangers to Congress

By Tom Strode
Dec 15, 2009

The Berkeley, Calif., City Council voted recently to send coat hangers to 20 pro-choice members of Congress who voted to block federal funds from paying for abortions.

The council members from one of the country’s most liberal cities took the unusual action Dec. 8 to express their disapproval after the representatives voted for a pro-life amendment to a health-care reform bill. That amendment bars government coverage of abortions in the “public option” and prohibits federal subsidies for lower-income people in private insurance plans that cover abortions.

Also in this edition: Secret video shows Planned Parenthood’s deceit — again and Study: Pro-life laws mean better maternal health.

On Nov. 7, 64 Democrats – including the 20 pro-choicers selected by the Berkeley City Council — joined 176 Republicans in voting 240-194 for the pro-life amendment by Reps. Bart Stupak, D.-Mich., and Joe Pitts, R.-Pa.

“The City of Berkeley is sending you this coat hanger as a symbol of the horrible pain and suffering endured by women as a result of years of anti-choice policies imposed by our government,” the council’s letter accompanying the coat hangers said. “We have never sent a coat hanger to anyone before.

“Please reconsider your vote and do everything possible to ensure that the health care bill that comes out of the conference committee does not take us back to an era of coat hangers and back alley abortions.”

For four decades, abortion-rights advocates have often used the symbol of a coat hanger and the label “back alley abortions” to decry the situation prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion throughout pregnancy and to resist efforts to restrict the practice or its funding by the government.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, abortions were legal in some states and were being primarily performed by doctors. Estimates by abortion-rights activists of 5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year from illegal abortions apparently were outdated by three decades, if they were valid at that time.

Bernard Nathanson, a former abortion doctor who helped found the abortion-rights organization now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, acknowledged after he became a pro-lifer his allies and he inflated statistics in order to gain legalization of the procedure.

In his 1979 book Aborting America, Nathanson wrote, “In NARAL we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always ‘5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.’ I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?”

The Centers for Disease Control reported deaths from illegal abortions totaled 39 in 1972, the last full year before the Roe opinion.

The Berkeley City Council voted 8-1 to send the letter and the hangers, with Gordon Wozniak the lone dissenter. Wozniak said he believed the use of a coat hanger was improper and could harm the city, according to the Associated Press.

Secret video shows Planned Parenthood’s deceit — again

Live Action’s investigation of Planned Parenthood continues, and employees of the country’s No. 1 abortion provider still are acting deceitfully.

Undercover video released Dec. 9 shows a counselor at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, Wis., providing erroneous information about fetal development.

The secretly recorded video shows the counselor telling a young woman posing as 10 weeks pregnant her “fetus” will not have a heartbeat until the 17th or 18th week of pregnancy. A heartbeat in an unborn child normally begins about three weeks into development.

“A fetus is what’s in the uterus right now,” the counselor says, as recorded by the camera. “That is not a baby.”

The edited video – available at – also shows a doctor telling the supposed pregnant woman she is not carrying a baby. Undergoing an abortion will be “much safer than having a baby,” he says. “You know, women die having babies.”

Lila Rose, 21, a UCLA student and president of Live Action, said in a written statement upon the release of the video, “[Planned Parenthood] will do or say anything in order to sell more abortions to more women, whether it is covering up sexual abuse or lying to women about medical facts. Our team has visited dozens of Planned Parenthood clinics undercover. Planned Parenthood, while claiming to support patient self-determination, operates with an ‘abortion-first mentality.’”

A similar undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood that began in 2008 showed staff members circumventing the law. Employees at seven PPFA affiliates in five states – Alabama, Arizona, California, Indiana and Tennessee — were caught on video seeking to cover up alleged child sexual abuse. Rose led the hidden-camera operation by posing as a minor with an adult boyfriend by whom she is pregnant.

In a different undercover investigation by Live Action, Planned Parenthood workers in seven states were caught on audio tape agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.

Planned Parenthood’s affiliates performed more than 305,000 abortions in 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Study: Pro-life laws mean better maternal health

The expansion of legal abortion does not result in improved health for mothers, according to a new study.

The World Economic Forum reported its research showed countries with more restrictive abortion laws have better maternal mortality rates than those with liberal policies, according to a Dec. 10 article by Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM)

Abortion-rights advocates have argued for the liberalization of anti-abortion laws in order to protect women from unsafe abortions and reduce the maternal mortality rate, C-FAM reported. Their contention is not supported by the facts, however.

Ireland, a strongly pro-life country, ranked No. 1 in the world with only one death for every 100,000 live births, according to the report. The United States has a maternal mortality ratio of 17 deaths per 100,000 live births.

In Africa, Mauritius, which is one of the continent’s most pro-life countries, has the lowest maternal mortality ratio, while Ethiopia, which has made abortion legal in recent years, has a rate 48 times higher than that of Mauritius, according to C-FAM. South Africa has the continent’s most liberal abortion policies and the continent’s highest maternal morality ratio of 400 deaths for every 100,000 live births, C-FAM reported.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission works to protect the sanctity of human life. If you would like to learn more about this issue, additional resources are available here. Our free, downloadable Impact resource is also available online. If your church is interested in purchasing materials on the sanctity of human life, please visit our online bookstore and

Further Learning

Learn more about: Family, Parenting, Mothers, Life, Abortion, Citizenship, Healthcare, Legislation,

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