The Charlotte Lozier Institute Plots New Strategies in War on Women

About Sofia Resnick

The Charlotte Lozier Institute aims to abolish abortion rights in the United States by recasting antichoice as authentic feminism, promoting incremental antichoice laws, and undermining the work of the prochoice Guttmacher Institute. Though it bills itself as a research organization, its strengths are in the realms of marketing and public relations, and it is creating new synergies and strategies within the antichoice movement.

The Guttmacher Institute has been a thorn in the antichoice movement’s side since 1968, when it was founded by Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Guttmacher, which is now an independent think tank, supports abortion rights and broad access to contraception, and it produces scholarly articles and collects abortion-related statistics that are used by a wide range of scholars, journalists, and activists. The Right’s dilemma has been that Guttmacher’s data are generally more comprehensive than the statistics collected by government agencies, which means that even antichoice advocates frequently rely on Guttmacher—and lend legitimacy to an institution whose mission they deplore.

CLI and its allies hope to cast antichoice as the genuinely feminist, pro-women’s health position. Photo courtesy of NewBirth35.

CLI and its allies hope to cast antichoice as the genuinely feminist, pro-women’s health position. Photo courtesy of NewBirth35.

Now, the antichoice movement is trying to create a competitor to its old nemesis. The Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), founded in 2011, is branding itself as the anti-Guttmacher: a source of abortion-related data and research that can be used by antichoice lawmakers and advocates.

CLI is the creation of the Susan B. Anthony List (SBAL), an organization that “emphasizes the education, promotion, mobilization, and election of pro-life women at all levels of government” and claims to represent more than 365,000 antichoice people in the United States.1  In June 2013, it announced an initiative to “recruit and organize pro-life women in state legislatures” and “foster community between pro-life women lawmakers across the country, and connect them with the resources they need to pass pro-life laws.”2

According to the SBAL’s 2013 business plan, CLI was founded “to muster the research to make our case for Life compelling.”3  Its budget this year is $700,000.4  It has received sizeable donations from several institutions, including the Chiaroscuro Foundation,5 Goldman Sachs’ Philanthropy Fund,6 and the Saeman Family Foundation.7  Its homepage also notes that CLI is “grateful to our friends at A-1 Storage,” a California-based self-storage company.

Though it bills itself as the SBAL’s “education and research arm,” CLI mainly repackages and comments on existing antichoice studies, and its leadership and affiliated scholars often contribute to public debates on reproductive issues. Its president, Charles A. Donovan, for example, has appeared on Fox News8 and CNN9 speaking against the Obama administration’s mandate that employers of a certain size provide employees with insurance coverage for women’s preventive health services, including birth control and emergency birth control, as part of the Affordable Care Act.

In its mission statement, CLI pledges to remain “faithful to the best methodologies and standards, inviting and accepting debate in the pursuit of our goals so that our work earns the highest degree of public trust and respect.”10 But in their role as authorities on reproductive health, CLI’s staff and associates sometimes make bold assertions based on little or no actual evidence.

For example, a recent piece by Teresa A. Donovan, one of Charlotte Lozier’s “associate scholars,” attacks the Food and Drug Administration’s decision in April to make emergency birth control Plan B available over the counter to females 15 and older.11 Donovan argues against Plan B on the basis that it is a “potential abortifacient,” citing the Plan B One-Step label’s indication that it may inhibit implantation of a fertilized egg.12

But an investigation by the New York Times, published in June 2012, reported that “[s]tudies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb . . . Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.”13

In April 2013, Christianity Today published an essay that discussed the actual effects of Plan B and noted that its maker, Teva Pharmaceuticals, “has repeatedly asked the FDA to remove its warning label that the drug ‘may inhibit implantation by altering the endometrium [the inside lining of the uterus].’” The piece also quoted Dennis Sullivan, the director of Cedarville University’s Center for Bioethics, who reviewed the relevant research for a scholarly journal. “He found ‘no evidence’ that Plan B causes abortions,” according to Christianity Today. Sullivan observed, “Our claims of conscience should be based on scientific fact, and we should be willing to change our claims if facts change.”14

Lacking much in the way of actual evidence or original research, CLI is pursuing a strategy that focuses on improving the antichoice movement’s public-relations operations and political effectiveness—high priorities for the SBAL, which suffered embarrassing defeats in the 2012 election cycle after backing extremist antichoice candidates. Most notably, it supported former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), who lost his Senate race after publicly defending his support for full abortion bans, with no exception for rape, by implying that rape victims rarely become pregnant. One of the SBAL’s near-term initiatives is to improve the “knowledge and communication skills” of state and federal candidates when it comes to abortion and other “Life issues.”15

CLI’s overarching goal is clearly expressed on its website: abortion is a “scourge” that should be “diminished and ultimately overcome.”16 The evidence suggests that, so far, it is pursuing this mission by developing three angles of attack: portraying antichoice as authentic feminism; promoting incremental restrictions on abortion rights; and attempting to cast doubt on Guttmacher’s work. Representatives of the Charlotte Lozier Institute and the SBAL declined multiple requests to be interviewed for this article.

Charlotte Lozier’s leadership

CLI’s president, Charles A. Donovan, is a longtime Beltway insider with decades of experience working for conservative think tanks, including the National Right to Life Committee; the Family Research Council, where he served in high leadership roles; and The Heritage Foundation, where he was a senior research fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.17 He was also a writer in the Reagan administration.18

As the face of CLI, Donovan makes frequent appearances on television news programs, and he testifies on behalf of abortion-related legislation at the state and federal levels. Last year, for example, he testified in support of an Arizona state bill that precluded reproductive health organizations from receiving Medicaid funding for non-abortion health services if they also offer abortion.19 Donovan claimed the focus of the bill was on “integrated, or whole-woman, care.”20 But the legislation was part of a national effort, led by the SBAL, to defund Planned Parenthood. The bill was signed into law but ultimately blocked in a federal court.

In early 2008, Donovan joined nearly 100 prominent social conservatives in signing a pledge titled “A Catholic Response to the ‘Call for Civility.’”21 The statement was a rejoinder to one released by the Catholic Civility Project the previous year, asking Catholic laymen to withhold from “making specifically Catholic judgments on those politicians who espouse positions contrary to Church teaching.”22

“A Catholic Response” included a list of issues that deserve condemnation by Roman Catholic politicians if they stray from the Church’s teachings. Prominent among the issues is abortion, as well as “embryo-destructive research” and “homosexual marriage.”

CLI’s adjunct scholar, Michael J. New, is a rising star in the antichoice movement and an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He is also associated with several conservative think tanks, including the Cato Institute, Witherspoon Institute, and The Heritage Foundation.23

New writes regularly about abortion and “traditional” family values and gives talks at conservative events, arguing that the only strategies that work at reducing abortion are “sexual restraint” and “pro-life laws.” What doesn’t work, he claims, are “more welfare spending,” “universal health care,” and “more spending on contraceptives.”24

In a speech at the 2012 Values Voter Summit, New described the Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglass Prenatal Discrimination Act, or PRENDA, as one of CLI’s policy interests. PRENDA, which was introduced in Congress in 2008 by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), would prohibit sex- and race-selective abortions. The bill has not yet made inroads at the federal level, but four states—Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania—have passed PRENDA-like provisions. CLI’s website features a picture of an Asian infant and a downloadable fact sheet, informing readers that sex-selective abortion—once practiced primarily in Asian nations—has now come to the United States and is concentrated within Asian-American communities.

PRENDA’s advocates are using a genuine global problem as a wedge for advancing further restrictions on abortion rights. In written testimony supplied to a December 2011 House committee hearing on PRENDA, representatives of the reproductive justice community explained that the bill “places an unfair burden on women of color that other women do not have to face—increased scrutiny around our motives for seeking abortion care. This scrutiny promotes racial profiling by pushing doctors to assume Black, Latina, and Asian women are seeking abortions because of the race or sex of the fetus. Moreover, making abortion harder to obtain will exacerbate the health disparities women of color already face.”25

At key right-wing meetings and conferences, New is helping to promote such legislation and is informing audiences about how CLI can help antichoice leaders generate new ideas and policy to counter the social justice movement.

The only other staff member listed on CLI’s website is Nora Sullivan, a research assistant, who has been “[a]ctive in the pro-life movement since high school,” when she volunteered for an antichoice “pregnancy care center.” Since graduating from college in 2010, Sullivan has been involved with major Beltway antichoice think tanks, including the Family Research Council and Americans United for Life.

CLI also has a stable of “associate scholars” who frequently address antichoice issues in public forums.26 They include Dr. Byron C. Calhoun, vice chair at West Virginia University-Charleston’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Margaret Hartshorn, the president of Heartbeat International, a network of antichoice crisis pregnancy centers known for manipulating women into continuing unwanted pregnancies.27

Antichoice as “authentic feminism”

The GOP’s losses in the 2012 election cycle—tied in part to the Republicans’ “war on women”—have given new urgency to the Right’s quest to recast itself in a more female-friendly light, and CLI is attempting to become a key purveyor of this message. On its IRS form, CLI describes one of its program services as promoting “authentic feminism,” which means “to disseminate information in support of (1) the historical accuracy of the claim that the first wave of women’s rights activists were pro-life; and (2) the ethical and philosophical harmony of a pro-life feminist position.”28

The messaging begins with its name. The SBAL and other antichoice groups have characterized Susan B. Anthony and Charlotte Denman Lozier as feminists who were steadfastly opposed to abortion. Lozier was a physician and woman’s suffragist in New York City. She died in 1870, when she was in her mid-20s, from complications while giving birth. Several historical obituaries describe Lozier as a noble, caring physician and a member of the “Women’s Suffrage and Workingwomen’s Associations.”29

In claiming Lozier as a forebear, antichoice groups have focused on an incident in which Lozier called for the arrest of a man who brought a woman in to have an abortion. As the CLI website notes: “Charlotte Lozier refused to violate her morals, professional code, and the law of the state. She insisted, ‘A person who asks a physician to commit the crime of ante-natal infanticide can be no more considered his patient then [sic] one who asks him to poison his wife.’”30  What’s missing from these accounts is the context of the era in which these women lived: Abortion was a dangerous procedure—usually a woman’s last choice, and often a deadly one. It was also illegal, making the current categories of prochoice and antichoice irrelevant.

But the “pro-women” messaging goes deeper than just the historical reference in its name. CLI is at the forefront of advancing the Right’s theory that framing abortion as a women’s-health issue is more effective, politically, than focusing on its morality.

Yale University law professor and legal scholar Reva B. Siegel, who has written extensively about the antichoice movement’s bid to develop new constitutional understandings of abortion rights, argues that the 1990s saw the beginning of an evolution in the arguments against abortion. “Leaders of the antiabortion movement embraced gender paternalism and began to supplement or even supplant the constitutional argument ‘Abortion kills a baby’ with a new claim ‘Abortion hurts women,’” Siegel writes.31

CLI is both following in this tradition and expanding on it. In one recent article, Nora Sullivan cites a study that looked at the mortality rates in Denmark “associated specifically with first pregnancy outcome alone.” It concluded that, “compared to women who delivered, women who had an early or late abortion had significantly higher mortality rates within 1 through 10 years.”32 The study was produced by David Reardon and Priscilla Coleman, two staple researchers in the antichoice movement, some of whose research has been challenged or discredited.33

Their research is contradicted by a 2012 study produced by Gynuity Health Projects, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to ensure that reproductive health technologies are widely available at reasonable cost” and whose efforts “are focused particularly on resource-poor environments” and “underserved populations.”34 Its study, which compared data on live births and pregnancy- and abortion-related deaths, found that “legal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than with abortion.”35

Another “pro-women’s health” angle that interests CLI is the trafficking of sex workers. According to its tax-exemption form filed with the Internal Revenue Service in 2012,36 the organization’s preliminary plans included researching the relationship between reproductive-health clinics and sex trafficking. CLI had conducted “a feasibility study of a potential major project for 2012 designed to ascertain the extent to which reproductive and general health care facilities are—inadvertently and/or negligently—helping to perpetuate sex trafficking of women by failing to identify and rescue trafficked women and girls.”

The feasibility study was conducted in 2011, a year when sex-trafficking, as it relates to abortion clinics, was a hot topic in antichoice circles and in Congress, after the antichoice activist Lila Rose and her organization, Live Action, released a series of videos surreptitiously taped at Planned Parenthood clinics. The videos captured activists posing as pimps and underage sex workers.37

The videos helped fuel a campaign, spearheaded by the SBAL, encouraging federal and state governments to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 240 to 185 to eliminate all federal grants to Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, despite the fact that those grants go toward non-abortion family planning services for low-income women. It was largely a symbolic vote, since the legislation had no chance of passing the Senate.38

The sex-trafficking project does not appear in the SBAL’s 2013 business plan, but the plan does assert that “the next two years promise to bring more opportunities to produce game-changing impact on the policy process in the nation’s capital.”

The antichoice movement’s long game

Aside from promoting antichoice ideology as authentic feminism, CLI is using at least two other strategies to pursue its mission. One is promoting legislation that gradually but methodically restricts access to reproductive health care, making it as inaccessible as possible. As Michael New has openly said, antichoice laws are most effective when they raise the cost of abortion and impose other obstacles to getting one.39 The other strategy is to attempt to undermine the Guttmacher Institute’s authority and credibility.

Toward the goal of restricting reproductive rights, CLI advances the disputed claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks—an argument that has been used in 10 state legislatures to ban abortions after that point, most recently in Texas.40 In June 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,41 which would do the same at the federal level (though it has no chance of passing the Senate).

Maureen Condic, a CLI associate scholar and associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah, testified on behalf of the Act. “From the perspective of neuroscience, it is unclear precisely what ‘psychological’ aspects of a mature pain experience are in place at precisely what point in either human prenatal or postnatal development,” Condic said. “It is impossible for me to know with certainty whether another adult, a teenager or a fetus experiences pain in precisely the same manner I do. Yet it is entirely uncontested that a fetus experiences pain in some capacity, from as early as 8 weeks of development.”42

Condic’s suggestion that fetuses are “pain capable” at eight weeks is crucial: It illustrates the antichoice movement’s broader strategy of gradually pushing for new abortion restrictions based on emerging—but dubious—“evidence” about fetal development. Antichoice groups have set the target for abortion bans at 20 weeks, but if they can convince lawmakers that fetuses feel pain “in some capacity” at eight weeks, as Condic claims, why shouldn’t abortion be banned at that point?

CLI’s third strategy is similar in that it involves a methodical, long-term plan: chipping away at the Guttmacher Institute’s credibility while calling for government agencies to begin collecting data that are broader in scope than what Guttmacher now collects. The strategy has the potential to simultaneously diminish Guttmacher’s importance while opening new angles of attack on abortion rights.

In a New York Times op-ed piece, published in January 2013, Charles Donovan gave a hint of things to come by comparing the Guttmacher Institute to an agenda-driven research arm of the tobacco industry. “We know what California’s and Maryland’s abortion rates are because their doctors and clinics, like those across the nation, voluntarily submit data to the Guttmacher Institute,” Donovan wrote. “Guttmacher is an independent enterprise, but it was once affiliated with Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States. There is no reason to think that the institute, whose abortion totals are consistently about a third higher than the C.D.C.’s because of these omitted states, is not a reliable source of data for the number of legal abortions occurring nationwide. And yet we would not be comfortable with our primary information on tobacco or manufacturing pollution coming from entities rooted in those sectors.”43

The previous month, Donovan and CLI’s research assistant, Nora Sullivan, made the case for stronger abortion-related data in a report titled “Abortion Reporting Laws: Tears in the Fabric.”

“Across the spectrum of views about the legal status of abortion throughout the duration of pregnancy, a wide range of commentators have urged public policies that would render the practice rare,” Donovan and Sullivan wrote. “An examination of state and federal reporting policies makes clear, nonetheless, that the system now in place is poorly suited to determine whether or not, in fact, abortion is becoming significantly less frequent and to what degree, especially in year-over-year comparisons where published data is delayed, non-existent, or available only from a single source with a history of close ties to the industry itself.”44

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relies mainly on voluntary reporting of abortion statistics. Many states record the information differently, if at all. The Guttmacher Institute, which collects a lot of data itself, has become the more utilized source for state and national abortion statistics.

The areas that CLI wants to see better reported by states include information on abortion complications, viability of the aborted fetus, maternal mortality, follow-up care, and how often and under what circumstances minors were able to obtain abortions without parental notice.

Asked whether the Guttmacher Institute supports laws calling for standardized abortion reporting at the state and federal level, Guttmacher senior communications associate Joerg Dreweke said he supports comprehensive public reporting around the incidence of abortion—to a point.

But, Dreweke wrote in an email, “Government abortion reporting systems must be used only for legitimate public health purposes; they must not be hijacked or in any way utilized to stigmatize women obtaining abortions, harass abortion providers or otherwise promote an antiabortion policy agenda. Some abortion-related reporting indicators that antiabortion activists are seeking to mandate have no place in a public health reporting system. For instance, while there may be a political motive, there is no public health purpose to knowing whether a minor obtained her abortion with parental consent.”

CLI’s attempts to cast doubt on Guttmacher’s legitimacy and make it less relevant are part of a broader, sustained attack on the institution. For example, a rising star in the antichoice movement, Ryan Bomberger, has also taken aim at Guttmacher with a video, titled “We’ve Been Guttmacher’d,” that aims to expose it as a shill for Planned Parenthood with deep-rooted eugenicist motivations.

Paraphrasing Malcolm X, Bomberger explained in an email: “‘We’ve Been Guttmacher’d’ simply means we’ve been lied to, hoodwinked, propagandized.”45  Guttmacher hasn’t been honest about the fact that it has received money from Planned Parenthood in recent years, Bomberger believes. He also claims that the organization is part of a broad conspiracy to encourage the abortion of black children.

Bomberger, who is “chief creative officer” of The Radiance Foundation, has no formal affiliation with CLI, but his anti-Guttmacher campaign illustrates how CLI is creating synergies within the broader antichoice movement and helping develop and refine new angles of attack. [See related sidebar.] It may never achieve its intention of becoming Guttmacher’s rival as a research institution. But if it is successful in its three-pronged strategy—casting the antichoice position as authentic feminism, helping push incremental restrictions on abortion rights, and delegitimizing Guttmacher’s work—that might not matter. CLI has so far been more focused on communications and advocacy than science and research. In policy contests over women’s reproductive freedoms, there are many cases in which the former has trumped the latter.

This article also appears in the Summer 2013 issue of the of PRA’s Public Eye magazine.

1. “SBA List Launches National Pro-Life Women’s Caucus,” Susan B. Anthony List, June 10, 2013, pro-life-women%E2%80%99s-caucus.

2. “SBA List Launches National Pro-Life Women’s Caucus.”

3. “Susan B. Anthony Business Plan 2013: Reclaiming the Human Center of the Abortion Debate,” 4,

4. “Susan B. Anthony List Business Plan 2013,” 31.

5. Chiaroscuro Foundation, Return of Private Foundation, IRS Form 990-PF, 2011,

6. Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund’s IRS Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, Form 990, 2011,

7. Saeman Family Foundation, “Return of Private Foundation,” Form 990-PF, 2011,

8. “Fox News Interview with Chuck Donovan, SBA List Education Fund,” YouTube, Oct. 17, 2011,

9. “CNN: Chuck Donovan on the HHS Mandate Policy Update,” Feb. 4, 2013,

10. “Mission,” The Charlotte Lozier Institute,

11. Teresa Donovan, “Plan B: Abortifacient and Other Risks,” May 2, 2013,

12. “How Plan B One-Step Works,”

13. Pam Belluck, “Abortion Qualms on Morning-After Pill May Be Unfounded,” New York Times, Jun. 5, 2012,

14. Ruth Moon, “Does Plan B Cause Abortion,” Christianity Today,  April 5, 2013,

15. “Susan B. Anthony List Business Plan 2013,” 9.

16. See “Mission,” Charlotte Lozier Institute,

17. See “Staff,” Charlotte Lozier Institute,

18. See “Chuck Donovan,” FRC Action,

19. “HB 2800,”

20. See “Testimony in Support of Arizona HB 2800,”

21. “Catholic Laymen in the Public Square: A Catholic Response to the ‘Call for Civility,’” January 22, 2008,

22. Jeff Mirus, “Civility in its Proper Context,”, Jan. 23, 2008,

23. The Heritage Foundation website hosts an extensive collection of New’s writings:

24. Michael New, “Pro-Life Success in the States: Strategies for the Current Debate and Beyond,” Pro-Life Science and Technology Conference, Sept. 8, 2012,

25. “Hearing on H.R. 3541,The Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) of 2011: Written Testimony from the Reproductive Justice Community,” December 6, 2011,

26. “Life-Issue Think Tank Announces Associate Scholars,” Charlotte Lozier Institute, Dec. 4, 2012,

27. See “Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Using Religion to Manipulate Women,” Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice,”

28. Charlotte Lozier Institute, “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax,” IRS Form 990, 2011,

29. See, for example, “Death of Dr. Charlotte Lozier,” New York Times, January 4, 1870.

30. “Charlotte Lozier,” Charlotte Lozier Institute,

31. Reva B. Siegel, “The Right’s Reasons: Constitutional Conflict and the Spread of Woman-Protective Antiabortion Argument,” Duke Law Journal (2008), 1649,

32. David Reardon and Priscilla Coleman, “Article Abstract: Short and long term mortality rates associated with first pregnancy outcome: Population register based study for Denmark 1980–2004,” Medical Science Monitor, 2012,

33. In 2009, for example, Coleman co-authored a study that tied abortion to an increased risk for depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, and other mental-health problems. The Guttmacher Institute reanalyzed the study in 2012 and found that it was severely flawed. A major problem was that Coleman and her co-authors drew a correlation between abortion and mental-health problems even when the problems preceded the abortion. See Alexandra Sifferlin, “Study Linking Abortion to Mental Health Problems Is Flawed,” March 8, 2012,

34. “10 Years: 2003-2013,” Gynuity Health Projects,

35. Elizabeth G. Raymond and David A. Grimes, “The comparative safety of legal induced abortion and childbirth in the United States,” Obstetrics & Gynecology (Feb. 2012),

36. Charlotte Lozier Institute, “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax.”

37. “Exposing Planned Parenthood’s Cover-Up of Child Sex Trafficking,” Live Action,

38. See Lucy Madison, “Planned Parenthood loses funding in House vote,” Feb. 18, 2011,

39. Sofia Resnick, “Anti-Abortion Scholar: Restrictions Should Be Designed to Raise Costs for Women,” Mother Jones, Sept. 21, 2012,

40. Eric Schulzke, “Texas at the forefront of national push on fetal pain legislation,” Deseret News, July 12, 2013,

41. “H.R. 1797: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,”,

42. Testimony of Maureen L. Condic, Ph.D., before the subcommittee of the Constitution and Civil Justice, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives,” May 23, 2013,

43. Charles A. Donovan, “Better Reporting for Abortions,” New York Times, Jan. 21, 2013,

44. Charles A. Donovan and Nora Sullivan, “Abortion Reporting: Tears in the Fabric,” Charlotte Lozier Institute, Dec. 12, 2012,

45. Ryan Bomberger, email exchange with author, May 3, 2013.


Sofia Resnick is an investigative reporter for the American Independent. Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Mother Jones, RH Reality Check, the Austin Chronicle, and other publications. She lives in Washington, D.C.