International Anti-Abortion Research Project, Part II

Date Published: July 19, 2006
Source: (Political Environments #3, Winter/Spring 1996)

International anti-abortion activity is taking place through existing networks of leaders, large international organizations such as Human Life International and internationally affiliated crisis pregnancy centers. While anti-abortion leaders from a variety of different countries have been networking through Human Life International conferences and similar events for quite some time, United Nations conferences and increased publicity surrounding population control in China have drawn the interest of local anti-abortion supporters. While many "facts" publicized by international anti-abortion activists are questionable, international anti-abortion sentiment is not sparked by rumor alone. Reacting against coercive population control measures and immigration restriction, anti-abortion activists mix the politics of rights with their own vision for a Christian world in which the anti-abortion agenda combines with homophobia, racism, and strong anti-Communist and anti-secular politics. International activists plan for the future by reassessing their methods, preparing political moves and training youth for the years to come.

China Politics

Anti-abortion activists on the domestic and international level have been using China's coercive population control efforts as the prime example of the horrors of abortion and sterilization use. While they oppose coercion, they also oppose women's right to choose.

Ironically, anti-abortion activists have taken up the defense of Chinese immigrants seeking asylum from forced abortion and sterilization in China. The situation surrounding the Golden Venture prompted publicity about China which increased awareness among US anti-abortion activists.

In June of 1993 the ship Golden Venture ran aground on a New York beach with 250 Chinese people illegally stowed on the freighter seeking asylum. Randall Terry a previous leader of Operation Rescue, reported that these immigrants were fleeing forced abortion and sterilization in China. Randall Terry was not the only anti-abortion activist who viewed the Golden Venture as an international anti-abortion opportunity in the United States. Life Coalition International, headed by Keith Tucci, another former head of Operation Rescue, led a publicity campaign asking activists to contact the media as well as legislators to demand asylum for those aboard the Golden Venture. Anti-abortion activists used this issue to pressure Republicans to support their international and domestic "pro-life" work. In April, a group called Local Opposition headed by Randall Terry staged a protest at Newt Gingrich's office to stop the deportation of those aboard the Golden Venture. Those arrested included Pat Mahoney, of the Christian Defense Council, and Joseph Slovenec, director of the US Taxpayers Party.

Often international anti-abortion activity is combined with racist and anti-immigration sentiments. In the 1980s the founder of Human Life International, Fr. Marx, stated in an interview with the Minneapolis Star that "The white Western world is committing suicide," explaining that, "I guess we have 250,000 Vietnamese here already, and they are going to have large families; the Orientals always do. God knows how many Mexicans cross the border every night... And if we ever have to fight the Russians, I wonder if these people will be willing to stake their lives." Prior to the Golden Venture incident, anti-abortion leaders certainly had not been on the forefront of pro-immigration politics. In this context it is extremely interesting that a collection of US Christian Right activists has mobilized on this issue. Kate Michelman from the National Abortion Rights League stated, "This is all about Randall Terry in search of a spotlight," but it could also be said that Randall Terry with his affiliations with Life Coalition International and the United Tax Payers Party used the Golden Venture episode to create an international consciousness in the domestic anti-abortion scene.

In September of 1995 during the UN Conference on Women in Beijing, Human Life International's president, Fr. Matthew Habiger, distributed letters requesting funding for "The China Underground Pro-Life Missionary Campaign." This letter requests donations to battle not only abortion but communism in China. The publication states, "When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, HLI was there - ready to move in and spread the pro-life Christian message to millions of former captives of atheistic Communism." The letter continues by stating, "Now ... when the Great Wall of China falls and Communism breathes its last gasp, HLI needs to be there to deliver the Chinese people from their Communist-imposed Culture of Death."

The "Culture of Death" advertised by HLI includes accusations that Chinese people are "eating the bodies of aborted babies as health food." HLI reports that one doctor states, "They can make your skin smoother, your body stronger, and are good for the kidneys." HLI also reports that the demographic decline of women in China means that "Most young Chinese men are faced with the very real problem of having no one to marry," resulting in an increase in male homosexuality. The HLI flyer states that the horrors of cannibalism and homosexuality are "a direct consequence of the culture of death that always comes with abortion, contraception, sterilization, euthanasia, and infanticide."

In preparation for the fall of communism and abortion in China, Human Life International is raising funds to:

• Convert people in China to a "Culture of Life" as taught by Pope John Paul II.
• Establish HLI branch offices in South Korea, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
• Raise legal fees to gain asylum in Australia for pregnant women seeking to leave China's one-child policy.
• Translate several brochures into Chinese dialects in order to print and distribute hundreds of thousands of copies.

With the Golden Venture campaign, anti-abortion activists in the United States brought international concerns to the domestic level. With a heightened international consciousness, anti-abortion supporters are more likely to join the efforts of Human Life International and its allies. Anti-abortion interests in China have evolved to a level where US supporters can further missionary work in China through the distribution of materials, support immigration efforts resulting from the one-child policy while pressuring Republican legislators to adopt their "pro-life" stance, or increase adoption efforts to bring "communist and atheist" Chinese children into Christian homes.

As with domestic anti-abortion politics, abortion is not the only issue international activists are concerned with. Abortion and sterilization circumstances in China not only provide an "abortion crisis," but a "communist crisis" in which both political interests are furthered by the antiabortion politic. While pro-choice advocates should defend the rights of immigrants seeking reproductive freedom and condemn coercive sterilization and contraception, the anti-abortion forces are using the issue not to defend freedom, but to further their vision of a Christian, "pro-life" and anti-Communist world.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers

The role of crisis pregnancy centers in the international anti-abortion scheme is not as large as that of Human Life International or Life Coalition International. Crisis pregnancy centers are internationally affiliated, yet their work is independent within each center. It is probable that individual crisis pregnancy center volunteers have limited information about the activity of clinics in other countries, but in the U.S. these volunteers account for a large number of pro-life activists whose international consciousness is rising.

Heartbeat International is an association of "crisis pregnancy" centers with domestic and international affiliates. Although Heartbeat International's world-wide directory lists 4,000 pro-life organizations with an increased number of international affiliates, its 24th annual conference held this November in Pittsburgh attracted only representatives from the United States, Canada, Croatia and Ireland. Statistics given at the conference showed that the numbers of women seeking abortion services attending their clinics have gone down, while the numbers of women who are seeking support services to continue pregnancy have increased. While originally intended to catch "abortion-minded clients" and save the "unborn" through counseling efforts, these clinics are now providing services to a large number of women who never had any intention of having abortions.

In reaction to the dropping numbers of "abortion-minded clients," Heartbeat International, in conjunction with the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), is helping member clinics with legal and logistical support to transform their already existing crisis pregnancy centers into medical centers. The "advantages" of a medical clinic include enabling clinics to use ultrasound in the attempt to stop women from seeking abortion services. At the 24th annual conference, Shari Richard, the producer of the video "Ultrasound: A Window to the Womb" and "Eyewitness to the Earliest Days of Life," taught a workshop on how to incorporate ultrasound technology into crisis pregnancy centers.

In the workshop Shari Richard claimed that in her experience 90% of women shown ultrasound chose not to abort. Shari Richard's ultrasound videos, "Eyewitness to the Earliest Days of Life" and "A Window to the Womb," have been provided to over 3,000 public and private schools and donated to every member of the US Congress and Senate. Sound Wave Images offers an Ultrasound Service Manual that includes advice on how to set up a medical center, to meet FDA guidelines, and to establish counseling techniques.

Shari Richard and the NIFLA both offered their medical and legal advice to help set up crisis pregnancy clinics in order to conduct ultrasound. Regulations in the United States mandate that ultrasound only be performed by a trained provider and by doctor's recommendation when medically indicated. Richard and NIFLAs support services are only offered in the United States and the small international involvement at this conference made it unclear whether ultrasound technology was being spread internationally.

As the emergence of ultrasound technology is new in crisis pregnancy centers, it is possible that clinics are not necessarily following all guidelines for ultrasound use. While Shari Richard and NIFLA offer extensive support in the creation of medical clinics with ultrasound technology, these additions are a relatively new phenomenon and it is possible that all guidelines are not being followed during this transition stage. A conversation with a crisis pregnancy staff member revealed unease about the use of ultrasound due to her knowledge that at least one clinic was allowing "untrained volunteers" to perform ultrasounds in violation of FDA guidelines. It would be a good idea to check your local clinic to insure that this is not the case.

If a clinic is not interested in or able to use ultrasound technology, ultrasound video footage is available on an international level. The video "Ultrasound: A Window to the Womb" has been taken to UN conferences in Cairo and Beijing and is translated into Korean, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian and Italian.

The introduction of ultrasound into crisis pregnancy clinics may be the future envisaged by leaders of Heartbeat International, but the professionalization involved presents problems for the traditional structure of these clinics. As seen at the Heartbeat International conference, it is primarily women over 30 that run the clinics. (There was only a small youth attendance at the conference and only a few men -lawyers with NIFLA or husbands involved with maternity homes.) Crisis pregnancy centers are one place in the "pro-life" movement where women remain in control. Most women at the conference spoke out against the gruesome photos of aborted fetuses used in sidewalk counseling and preferred their own counseling methods to others used in the movement. As clinics are encouraged to transform into medical facilities, the women who have traditionally run these clinics will probably lose their positions of control. The reliance on doctors and sonographers could place women trained in "pro-life" counseling on the sidelines.

At the 24th annual Heartbeat International conference, chastity educator Molly Kelly said, "Thank you Planned Parenthood." According to her, reaction to Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice forces brings about renewed anti-abortion activity and support for crisis pregnancy centers. As crisis pregnancy clinics move to oppose Planned Parenthood and other clinics by providing more medical services, it is vital that we understand and further monitor these efforts and their impact on women seeking affordable, available medical services and information.


Those working in the anti-abortion field are very concerned with nurturing anti-abortion interest and action in youth. It is extremely important to understand the extent of anti-abortion activity by Christian Right youth and how it is being translated into international work.

In our first report the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio was cited as a center of anti-abortion education. Further research reveals it is the only university in the United States to provide a "human life issue" minor which includes classes on Human Embryology and Surveys on Contemporary Human Life Issues including the ethical, political, social, historical, legal and constitutional dimensions of issues including but not limited to abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and reproductive technology. While there are only four classes specifically labeled as Human Life Issue classes at the Franciscan University, the eight remaining class options are found through a variety of other departments, showing that Human Life Issues are not solely located in the one minor, but run through the curriculum. Besides the Human Life Studies Minor, the school has a strong communications department which includes radio and television programming that is broadcast worldwide, as well as a strong nursing program. Although the University of Steubenville has only 1,900 students, students come from every state and over 40 foreign countries.

With high foreign student involvement and missionary interest, graduates from the Franciscan University could have a large impact on international anti-abortion matters. The strong communication and health fields create numerous anti-abortion professionals for future activism.

The internet is another resource enabling Christian youth to find international opportunities in the anti-abortion movement. For example:

· At the internet site "http:/" a group out of Orlando, Florida offers missionary trips for interested high school students to visit Romania and deal with the abortion issue.

· The Campus Crusade for Christ home page is located at "http:/" and offers missionary work with 400 different missionary organizations throughout the world for interested youth.

Youth involvement in the international anti-abortion issue through the internet expands beyond these example sites and will be further documented in future reports. What is important to note is that international anti-abortion activists are planning and training for the future. Whether it is planning for the fall of communism in China, or training nursing students for family oriented, "pro-life" medicine, activists are engaged in complex networking and preparation processes. The international realm of anti-abortion politics is still new, and it seems to be growing. It is vital that we further monitor international anti-abortion interest, asserting the politics of reproductive freedom over the attempt to create a "Christian" world.

Special thank to Fred Clarkson.

Organizations researching international anti-abortion activity are extremely limited and in need of your informational support. Please send information regarding international anti-abortion activity in your area to:

International Anti-Abortion Research Project
Population and Development Program/CLPP
Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002

If you are interested in knowing what crisis pregnancy centers affiliated with Heartbeat International are in your region or country; please write to us.

Examples of international anti-abortion leaders networking can be found in the "International Anti-Abortion Research Project" article in Political Environments, Summer 1995.
Washington (AP) "Protesters Arrested in Gingrich's Office," April 18, 1995.
Information packet about the "Golden Venture People" distributed by Life Coalition International.
Washington (AP) "Protesters Arrested in Gingrich's Office," April 18,
"Human Life International and Racism" which quoted Marx from quotations found in "Women's Rights: Target for Racist Terror," by Michael Novick, People Against Racist Terror, 1993.
Washington (UPI) April 11, 1995.
Human Life International letter, "When China Falls," cover sheet.
It must be noted that this is becoming common "knowledge" among anti-abortion activists. A recent Ivy League Coalition for Life conference held a workshop on the UN Beijing conference in which a show of hands confirmed that all members of the workshop had heard this information.
Human Life International letter, "When China Falls," p.4-5.
Human Life International letter, "When China Falls," p.4 and 10.
Welcome letter, 24th Annual Conference notebook. Growth of international affiliates is measured through comparisons of the 1994 and 1995 Worldwide Directory of Life-Affirming Pregnancy Services, Heartbeat International.
Shari Richard formed Sound Wave Images, an organization in West Bloomfield, Michigan that has provided over 200 free ultrasound exams for women "experiencing crisis-pregnancies."
In the workshop entitled "Medical Services: Ultrasound to Save Lives" by Shari Richard, we were told that there were counseling techniques that would convince a woman seeking abortion services to see the ultrasound first. A woman could be told that an unviable pregnancy could be detected with ultrasound. If this was the case, then an abortion would be unnecessary and the woman could wait to miscarry. Shari Richard was confident about the ability of ultrasound pictures to deter abortions regardless of the original intent of the woman.
Personal conversation at the Heartbeat International 24th Annual Conference. This does not reflect any comments or suggestions by Heartbeat International, Sheri Richard, Sound Wave Images, or the NIFLA.
Sound Wave Images pamphlet.
Keynote address by Molly Kelly, November 17, 1995, Heartbeat International 24th Annual Conference.
The Franciscan University of Steubenville 1995-1997 catalogue.
Franciscan University of Steubenville, "The Way, the Truth, and the Life," promotional material.