abortion rights

Anti-Choice March for Life Attempts Pivot to Science

Vice President Mike Pence at the March for Life.
Vice President Mike Pence at the March for Life. Photo: ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Anti-choice activists convened in Washington, D.C., today at the annual March for Life protest that condemns access to abortion services. This year, the March took on a new theme: Their movement, as they’re now describing it, is “pro-science.”

Specifically, the organization is arguing that scientific research shows that life begins at conception – though their methodology is highly suspect. The Washington Post reports that the organizers used two “scientific papers” to bolster their claim that zygotes are living beings; one was written by an anti-abortion group, and the other came from the American College of Pediatricians, a socially conservative advocacy group that the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a fringe anti-LGBT hate group that masquerades as the premier U.S. association of pediatricians.”

Sarah Horvath, a doctor and a family planning policy and advocacy fellow for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, disagreed with the studies’ findings. “I think that’s a gross exaggeration of an incredibly complex topic,” she told the Post. “There are many fertilized eggs that never implant, that implant in the wrong place … that become miscarriages, that in fact can become a type of cancer.”

There’s actually no scientific consensus on when life begins; conversely, most medical professionals are in agreement that limiting women’s access to safe, legal abortion care puts their health at serious risk. In March 2018, the Guttmacher Institute released a study that found that limiting access to abortion services did not lower the rate of abortions, but did increase the risk of an unsafe abortion. Another study, by the Bixby Center of Reproductive Health at the University of San Francisco, found that restricting abortion severely risks women’s health, safety, and well-being, and places a significant burden on women seeking options.

The Washington Post also cited a 2017 statement from the American Association of Pediatrics, which affirmed that “a minor should not be compelled or required to involve her parents in her decision to obtain an abortion.” Most state laws require minors obtain parental consent before aborting an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy. “Early childbearing can lead to a range of negative outcomes for the adolescent mother and her child or children, including lower rates of school completion, higher rates of single motherhood, higher rates of preterm birth and low birth weight, increased rates of incarceration among male children, and increased rates of teen motherhood among female children born to adolescent mothers,” the statement reads.

In a statement provided to the Cut, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s President, Dr. Leana Wen, said: “For too long, anti-choice groups and politicians have tried to restrict people’s access to abortion using restrictions that have no basis in medicine and science, and that are designed solely to shame and coerce women. Decisions about a pregnancy — whether to have an abortion, choose adoption, or parent a child — need to stay between a woman, her family, and her doctor. No one can make that decision for someone else.”

Anti-Choice March for Life Attempts Pivot to Science