Misinformation and Confusion Key Aims of Anti-Choice Ads by ICare (Part One)

This article is Part One in a series on an advertising supplement being
sold by Minneapolis-based Human Life Alliance to colleges and
universities. In each piece, Robin Marty, RH Reality Check Contributing Editor, will examine one in the series of ads for misleading, dangerous and outrageous information.  Robin introduced the series here.

A reader doesn’t make it far into the Icare advertising supplement released by the Human Life Alliance before getting hit with some major whoppers.  In fact, you can’t even make it past the table of contents.

"No country has more permissive abortion laws than the U.S.—abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason."

Not true. In Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court decided that states could regulate access to abortion when there was a compelling state interest in doing so overriding that of the woman’s right to terminate the pregnancy, and the court cited viability of the fetus as a threshold.  No one anywhere in the United States can get an abortion "through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason." 

In fact, according to the latest overview of abortion laws by the Guttmacher Institute, updated December 1st of this year, "[Thirty-eight] states prohibit abortions, generally except when necessary to protect the woman’s life or health, after a specified point in pregnancy, most often fetal viability. [Sixteen] states have laws in effect that prohibit “partial-birth” abortion. [Four] of these laws apply only to postviability abortions."  In this case, "partial-birth" abortion is the term used by Guttmacher to describe late term abortions, rather than an actual medical term for any procedure.

Given how they start out, it should be no surprise that Human Life Alliance is unable to get even the most basic facts right.  Their two-page section called "Save the Humans…Our Greatest Resource" covers the gestational growth of a fetus.  But the time line does not match up with actual biological development.  They begin at Day 1 – Fertilization, then begin to track the fetus through Month 1 (weeks 1-4).  In their time line, a fetus is then birthed at 36 weeks. 

In general, pregnancy is designated as typically 40 weeks in length, with the first two weeks being the two prior to ovulation.  The fetus then develops for 38 additional weeks.  Yet in HLA’s version, with Day 1 as fertilization, two weeks are missing from the time line. 

The HLA time line serves a dual purpose.  By creating their own line with only 36 they can speed up the development of the embryo and fetus.  Stating that the heart beats at 21 days implies that at three weeks the embryo already has a beating heart, when in fact real development charts show that the heart beats at what is medically accepted to be five to six weeks.

The fetal development time line also serves to confuse anyone either considering or just discussion abortion,  attempting to make it unclear as to a consensus on where a woman choosing an abortion actually is in her pregnancy.

But misinformation and confusion appears to be a key tactic in the Icare supplement, as we will continue to see.  In the next article in our series you will see how HLA uses bad research and misinformation to attempt to guilt rape and incest victims into giving birth to their attackers’ children.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact press@rhrealitycheck.org.

Follow Robin Marty on twitter: @robinmarty

  • jenh

    What a ridiculous and meaningless criticism. They simply do not count the two weeks prior to ovulation because at that point, no baby exists! They start charting the baby’s life and development from the moment of conception – day 1 of the new life. It’s not misleading. It’s the medical profession’s timeline that is confusing and nonsensical! To be considered two weeks pregnant already on the day you conceive is just silly. HLA’s timeline makes much more sense.

  • mark2

    JenH – this is why Pro-Lifers get accused of not caring about living in the reality-based community.  You cannot ignore peer-reviewed evidenced-based medicine and science because your own pet theory makes more sense.  You may think the medical community is "nonsensical" but simply asserting something does not make it so.  When the facts are on your side, pound the facts.  When the facts aren’t on your side, pound the keyboard, I guess.

    If pro-life groups want to avoid being labelled with the same brush as birthers, flat-earthers, and other fringe groups, they need to be careful not to live solely in a faith-based haze of gut-feelings and scientific illiteracy. One can be pro-life and pro-science and even more importantly one should strive to be pro-life without being anti-science.

  • jenh

    I assure you I live more solidly in reality than any pro-choicer. I am able to see the reality of the baby in the womb; they simply ignore the presence of life and assuage their consciences with talk of zygotes of “insentient fetuses” and the like. There is no denying the reality that there is new life in the womb – a child – and attempting to demean the value of that life with scientific terms is a pathetic sham.

    I have had three children, and I can solidly assure you that prior to their conception, I was NOT pregnant! The medical community can chart pregnancy that way if they choose, but it is not reality. HLA’s timeline is reality, and therefore, scientific. I am very pro-science, because science confirms what reasoned faith tells us; that the child in the womb is alive from the moment of conception and is not an extension of her mother, but a separate individual. A human being. That is undeniable science.

    Sorry, but your arrogant attempt to dismiss me as fringe just doesn’t wash.

  • mark2

    I like how this game works.  You get to decide reality while rejecting modern scientific understanding because it doesn’t jive with your own intuition.  And yet this is undeniable science.  Amazing!


    You would have been great back in the day:  "the scientific community can chart the heavens anyway they choose, but it is not reality.  The Church’s understanding of an Earth-centric universe is reality, and therefore, scientific.  I am very pro-sceince, because science confirms what reasoned faith tells us; that the Earth is the center of the Universe.  That is undeniable science."


    Bald assertions and appeals to faith cannot form the basis of a strong argument.  If you don’t like what evidence-based science has to offer, just say so.  Say you selectively cherry-pick facts and use them as you wish to jusitify your preconceived views, while dismissing those which challenge or undermine your position.  So be it.  Just don’t dare call it science – especially when you’re rejecting the very type of evidence-based practices in question.

  • jenh

    Wow, Mark2, you don’t get it at all. Scientifically, prior to conception, a woman is NOT pregnant! I’m not making that up, or cherry-picking facts, or making a bald assertion. Have you had a child? Were you pregnant before that child was conceived? Of course not!
    And it is not an appeal to faith to recognize what science has revealed to everyone — that the act of conception creates a new human being! Faith is not at all opposed to science. It’s marvelous that science has now caught up with faith in establishing the humanity of the life in the womb. Science is most definitely on the side of LIFE.

  • soclosetolife


    I think the point of the article was not that a woman is pregnant before she is pregnant (nonsensical much?). It is that a group who should clearly understand what is medical terminology is mis-representing facts to support their own platform.

    Yes it is confusing that medical doctors reference how far along a pregnancy is by going back to the last period. However just because it is confusing does not mean this group can just use their own terms (and subtract two whole weeks from a pregnancy).

    A layperson reading their material might say "Oh I must be two weeks along" and then reference the material to see what that stage of gestation looks like but then when their doc says "Congratulations you are four weeks pregnant" they would be confused. And that is the whole point of using medically inaccurate material. To confuse those who might otherwise (given reliable accurate information) make a decision that they do not like.

    And to answer an anticipated question: Yes I have been pregnant. No I was not pregnant before I conceived. But when I conceived I was medically two weeks pregnant. 

  • prochoicegoth

    Doctors calculate pregnancy from LMP for a reason. Because for one, it helps the woman possibly pinpoint when she conceived and it also helps to estimate the woman’s due-date. You’re just mad at it because then the fetus doesn’t look like a ‘mini-baby’ until 10-12 weeks and also it makes all those “abortion pics” questionable, not that they weren’t being questioned for their validity already.

  • led

    So, the HLA timeline clearly ignores accepted medical convention because it is convenient for them. This is not surprising since the pro-life community likes to invent "medical" terms for non-medical procedures, i.e. "partial-birth abortion." But that being said, 40 weeks minus those first 2 weeks is still 38 weeks. What do they do with the other 2 weeks to get to 36? Am I missing something?

  • jenh

    So, LED, you admit that partial-birth abortion is a NON-medical procedure?!? That’s right — partial birth. There is no other way to describe a process whereby the baby is PARTIALLY DELIVERED except for the head and then killed.

    ProChoiceGoth: HLA is describing the time line of the baby’s development from the first day of conception: they are not attempting to redefine the time line of pregnancy that doctors follow. Yes, I understand why doctors make their calculations based on LMP, but that artificial calculation is often wrong. They assume every single woman ovulates on day 14, and determine the baby’s age accordingly. That is often a bad guess. HLA is simply chronicling the baby’s development based on the baby, not the mom’s LMP. Nothing wrong with that.

  • led

    JenH, what I mean when I say that "partial-birth" abortion is not a medical procedure is because "partial-birth" abortion is NOT a medical term. The correct medical term for this procedure is intact dilation and extraction. It accounts for a tiny fraction of the abortions performed in this country, and is almost always performed on women whose fetuses have severe malformations. I used so-called "partial-birth" abortion as an example of how a group will create language to further their agenda. I don’t see how the HLA timeline is any different. By using a developmental timeline that is different than what every obstetrician uses to educate and counsel their patients about their pregnancies they are attempting to mislead women. When a woman goes in to see her obstetrician and hears "congrats, you’re six weeks pregnant," this woman will then refer to the six-week mark on the HLA pamphlet. As a result, she will be mislead into thinking that her fetus is more developed than it actually is. It is clear that HLA published this pamphlet not to provide women with accurate information about their pregnancies, but to further their own agenda.

  • prochoicegoth

    The correct term for this procedure is Intact D&X or IDX. This procedure was mainly reserved for women who wanted the fetus intact to hold, provide burial for. IDX procedures NEVER involved a conscious fetus. In fact, many feoti were euthanized via a shot of digoxyn that would immediately stop the heart. Compared to a D&E, IDX was less risky to the woman, and was less ‘brutal’. 

  • human-life-alliance


    The citation for abortion being legal all nine months as seen on page 2 of icare http://www.humanlife.org/icare.php is not from Roe v Wade, but Doe v Bolton, the companion case for Roe v Wade that was passed the exact same day. Doe v Bolton allows abortion after viability for reasons of the “health of the mother.” They then defined health to include anything including “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.” This allowed doctors to claim “health of the mother” for any woman just by saying the stress of the pregnancy was affecting her mental health. Not every state allows abortion through all nine months, but everyone has the freedom in the US to travel to a state that does allow and provide late-term abortions to kill their child anytime during their pregnancy.

    Human Life Alliance


  • prochoicegoth

    Hate to burst your bubble, but NO SANE DOCTOR will abort a pregnancy that late because a woman is feeling blue. There has to be a significant health risk. If the woman is suicidal, then that MAY be reason enough to abort, but not usually. Do you honestly think your BS is proof of anything, other than the fact that you LIE to women?


    It’s pro-choice or NO choice.

  • grayduck

    "In Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court decided that states could regulate access to abortion when there was a compelling state interest in doing so overriding that of the woman’s right to terminate the pregnancy, and the court cited viability of the fetus as a threshold. No one anywhere in the United States can get an abortion ‘through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason.’"


    The quote from Human Life Alliance is completely accurate. Roe v. Wade does allow states to restrict abortion after viability (theoretically, at least) but that allowance does not, in any way, permit states to restrict abortions in any particular month of pregnancy. Just because some fetuses are viable in the ninth month of pregnancy does not mean that all of them are viable, nor does it mean that any particular physician will judge any particular fetus to be viable. In the 1976 case Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, the Court specifically ruled that states cannot fix viability at a particular number of weeks in pregnancy. "The time when viability is achieved may vary with each pregnancy, and the determination of whether a particular fetus is viable is, and must be, a matter for the judgment of the responsible attending physician."




    Moreover, the Court ruled in the companion case to Roe, Doe v. Bolton, that states cannot require an abortionist to obtain a second opinion regarding a viability determination from an independent physician. That means that an abortionist can increase his or her income by falsely declaring a fetus to be non-viable, thus subverting the right of a state to protect a viable fetus. "Required acquiescence by co-practitioners…infringes on the physician’s right to practice."





  • grayduck

    Human Life Alliance on December 17, 2009 – 5:00pm: "Doe v Bolton allows abortion after viability for reasons of the ‘health
    of the mother.’ They then defined health to include anything including ‘physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age –
    relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate
    to health.’ This allowed doctors to claim ‘health of the mother’ for
    any woman just by saying the stress of the pregnancy was affecting her
    mental health."



    These assertions raise several questions.


    Exactly where does Doe v. Bolton allow abortions after viability? Please provide a passage from Doe in support of your claim.


    If you read Doe v. Bolton, you will see that the definition of the word health that is used was based on a precedent established in the 1971 case U.S. v. Vuitch. Does your organization hold the opinion that Vuitch was wrongly decided? Has any pro-life organization ever criticized Vuitch?


    The Vuitch decision derived the definition based on a reading of Webster’s Dictionary. Are you asserting that the definition in Webster’s Dictionary is not consistent with the definition used in the medical community or in society at large?


    Why should mental health be treated differently from physical health?


    Why cite Doe v. Bolton rather than the Thornburgh case of 1986? Doe merely required that the dictionary definition of health be used, while Thornburgh limited the extent to which states could require that a health problem be severe to justify a post-viability abortion.



    "Not every state allows abortion through all nine months…"



    Falsehoods are no more acceptable when uttered by supposed pro-lifers than they are when said by pro-abortionists or pro-choicers. As I explain in my other post, no state can place gestational time limits on abortion of any kind.