Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Abortion
You don’t trust the first three. So consider the fourth.
Reading time: 3 mins
Let’s begin with the blindingly obvious – a few statements of simple fact.
The tobacco industry spent years and billions of dollars trying, with great success, to hide the truth about smoking. The oil industry is currently spending billions of dollars to blunt the impact of climate change legislation. The pharmaceutical industry is the most successful on the planet, spending billions annually marketing drugs, or controlling the price of those drugs in order to maximise profits.
This is, by and large, what large corporations do. They maximise profits, seek to expand markets, and spend money to influence regulatory regimes in their favour. Large mobile phone companies spend billions lobbying telecoms regulators, large banks lobby financial regulators, and farming organisations lobby agriculture regulators.
The key to lobbying is not to lobby for the corporation, but the consumer. Big Oil doesn’t talk about the impact of environmental regulations on its profits – it lobbies about the impact of those regulations on drivers, or poor people with fossil fuel heating.
Big Tobacco doesn’t lobby for higher profits, it argues for the right of people to choose smoking. Drug companies seek to protect patents for life-saving drugs not because it keeps the prices of those drugs high, but because they say they want to protect patients. The key to being a good lobbyist is to convince the public that your interest is their interest. Do that, and politicians and regulators will jump to your tune.
The abortion industry is no different. First, it is a billion-dollar industry in the United States, with the largest single provider, Planned Parenthood, raking in about $1.3 billion annually from abortion alone. In turn, the industry donates millions of dollars to politicians, and spends an equal amount on lobbyists.
In every country with legalised abortion, the pattern is identical. Abortion is largely outsourced to private providers, usually because public health systems are unsuited to providing abortion. In fact, a recent survey found that only 15% of Irish GPs say that they are willing to provide abortion pills. With this number of GPs opting out, private providers will have to step in.
Those private providers swiftly begin acting like any other industry, lobbying the government to increase their market share and making the argument that they are acting in the interests of consumers.
The UK abortion industry has been one of the largest, most vocal, and highest-spending supporters of the Irish repeal movement. They have spent vast sums on online advertising, search engine optimisation, and lobbying of Irish politicians. A major British abortion provider has even registered the domain name abortion.ie already; so eager are they to enter the market.
Ostensibly, this is not in their interest, since the repeal movement points out that 3,000 Irish women are their customers annually. Of course, the reality is that repealing the 8th Amendment will open the Irish market more generally, and will allow more direct marketing of abortion as the first and easiest solution, rather than as a last resort.
One of the things about the abortion industry that is often not considered is that it is in the industry’s interest to maximise the number of abortions. For most of us, whether we support repeal or oppose it, abortion is the last resort of a woman with an unplanned pregnancy. For the abortion industry, all pregnant women are potential customers, and therefore legitimate targets for marketing.
Marie Stopes, the largest private provider in the UK, has gone so far as to offer bonuses to staff based on the number of abortions they carry out. We are often told that the 8th Amendment inhibits the provision of information to women (it does not), but less focus is placed on the fact that the abortion industry is incentivised to market abortion even to women who had not considered it.
This is a very relevant part of this debate. Ultimately, the abortion debate is a cultural issue much more than a legal one. Do Irish women have abortions? Yes. Will they continue if the 8th is kept? Yes. So what’s the point of it, you might fairly ask?
The primary benefit of the 8th Amendment is that it prevents us from having a culture where abortion is marketed to women as the first option. In Ireland, the first question we ask a pregnant woman is, “How can I help?”, not, “Are you going to keep it?” The trick the abortion industry plays is to make abortion culturally expected in certain circumstances – and to demonstrate this, let’s look at Down Syndrome.
90% of babies diagnosed in the womb with Down Syndrome in the UK are aborted. Why is this? Is it because their mothers are bad people? Of course it isn’t. It is because the abortion industry has very successfully marketed abortion as the culturally accepted response to such a diagnosis. In February, for example, the abortion giant Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in Ohio seeking to block a state ban on aborting unborn children with Down’s Syndrome. While the people of Ohio have decided they cannot stand over such procedures, Planned Parenthood is fighting hard to keep this revenue stream.
In Ireland right now, the default response to an unexpected pregnancy is not to choose abortion. The abortion industry has an interest in changing that.
It’s not about choice at all, you see. For the abortion industry, it’s about market share.