The Persistent Myth

Frank Pavone, Rev.
National Director/ Priests for Life
May 20, 2001

I have often spoken and written about the fact that more and more abortion supporters openly admit that abortion takes a human life. In fact, a CBS–NY Times survey in 1998 revealed that 50% of respondents were willing to call abortion murder, and one–third of those said that it nevertheless can be the best course of action for a woman in a bad situation.

This has led me and others to emphasize the need of our movement not only to point out the humanity of the child, but the reality of the help that is available to the mother, to assist her to preserve and nurture the life of that child, and to find that her own fulfillment is not sacrificed in the process.

Nevertheless, there is a myth that persists about the child.

Analysis of the opinion of Americans about abortion is least helpful when it focuses on the slogans with which people associate themselves, and most helpful when it focuses on the specific positions with which people associate themselves. One of the key parameters in which those positions are analyzed is the time framework of pregnancy. Predictably, support for abortion drastically declines as you go later into the stages of pregnancy. A NY–Times — Wirthlin poll revealed only 7% of Americans supporting abortion in the third trimester, and only 15% supporting it in the second trimester of pregnancy.

Yet to understand how we are doing in the overall effort to end abortion, we have to consider that third–trimester procedures constitute about 1% of abortions, and second–trimester procedures constitute about 9%. All the rest of the abortions, some 90%, occur in the first trimester. It is in that period that we find 61% of Americans supporting the availability of abortion. It is also in that period that we find the persistent myth: that the unborn is not really a human child at that point.

We live in a visual culture. Much of the erosion of support for late-term abortions can be traced to the partial–birth abortion controversy. The visual reality of this procedure, performed in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, has been presented in the halls of Congress and on national TV by means of medically accurate diagrams. Moreover, actual photos of aborted babies are, for the most part, of babies in these same time frames — and again, most Americans already oppose abortion at those times, and most abortions take place before that period.

It is time to attack directly the persistent myth that the first trimester baby is not a baby, and that the first trimester abortion is not really an act of violence that kills a baby. We at Priests for Life have taken a step in this direction by publishing on our website color photos of first trimester aborted children (visit No pro–life educational effort has the kind of impact that this has. Seeing is believing. America will simply not reject abortion until America sees abortion.