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‘Signs of hope’ in abortion clinics

Louisiana’s new abortion clinic law protects woman and their unborn children . . .

Dorinda C. Bordlee

Every woman deserves love and commitment. But a tragic consequence of Roe v. Wade is that it creates a social environment where men can sexually objectify women and then subtly or overtly coerce abortion if pregnancy results. It’s often an employer, friend or parent who pressures the woman into an abortion clinic.

To help address this tragic state of affairs, the Bioethics Defense Fund drafted the innovative “Signs of Hope” legislation, which was recently put into effect by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. It requires 16 x 20 inch signs to be hung in abortion clinic waiting areas and patient rooms featuring information women deserve to know.

Despite the fact that the signs are straightforward — the headline is “Notice: Women’s Rights and Pregnancy Resources” — the Planned Parenthood rep described them in committee testimony as “condescending” and “offensive.” The signs highlight four key points:

• You can’t be forced. It is unlawful for anyone to make you have an abortion against your will.
• You and the father. The father must provide child support, even if he offered to pay for an abortion.
• You and adoption. The law allows adoptive parents to pay costs of prenatal care, childbirth and newborn care.
• You are not alone. Many agencies are willing to help you carry your child to term and to assist after your child’s birth.

The sign then boldly features a website that can be accessed even in the abortion clinic by a woman using a smart phone or laptop. The Signs of Hope legislation is thus designed to complement the printed booklets required by existing Women’s Right to Know laws so that women can digitally access photos and videos of the unborn child, information about abortion risks and listings of adoption services, pregnancy resource centers that provide free ultrasound, prenatal care and a variety of health services.

The law also requires that abortion clinics put the new website on their home pages. Clinics must also provide the site to anyone scheduling an appointment for an abortion. Cindy Collins, the director of a center that counsels post-abortive women, dubbed the bill the “Signs of Hope Act,” explaining that the signs will bring hope to women who often feel hopeless and coerced due to a perceived lack of alternatives.

But the reality is that the words on this sign were born from the tragic car accident that took the life of Violet Nikas, the mother of Bioethics Defense Fund co-founder and president Nikolas T. Nikas. Right after the funeral, I was asked to draft a bill that would require an “abortion coercion” warning sign. With the faces of my friends who had been robbed and beaten by the abortion industry in the front of my mind, I placed myself in their shoes as they sat in the waiting room of an abortion clinic. What would they want to see on that sign?

That’s when I started writing a love letter to these women as if they were the final words I could tack to the wall. I wanted women to know that there are many selfless people in the pro-life movement who are there for them. I wanted them to know that they could give their children the support of an adoptive family. I wanted Violet to know that her death might result in signs of life.

We encourage policy leaders to contact us for a copy of the model bill and complementary legal support. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that states have a strong interest in promoting childbirth over abortion, and the Signs of Hope Act does just that.

Dorinda C. Bordlee is senior counsel of Bioethics Defense Fund, a non-profi t legal organization that advocates for the dignity of human life through litigation, legislation and public education. For more information: bdfund.org/signsofhope