Safe, Legal, and Rare, Part 3: Rare?

Opportunity Beats Abortion

We have been looking at the record of the actual practice of abortion in the 40 years since Roe v. Wade, the proponents for which promised that legalizing abortion federally would result in abortion becoming “safe, legal, and rare.”

We previously examined Safe and Legal, and today examine Rare:

First, a clarification. Commenters on my previous posts are apparently so caught up in the pro/con binary that they incorrectly assume that since I am against abortion, I want to criminalize it.

As with all Independent Institute proposals, mine is a quest to educate, not legislate.

I recognize that there are many people of good will who believe there is nothing wrong with abortion. It is my hope that if they knew the truth of the conditions under which it is too-often actually practiced, and understood the ramifications to the women involved—as well as to our very culture—the tide could be turned, and we could, indeed, achieve abortion’s becoming extremely Rare.

As a Christian, I am also aware of numerous stories, including one told me first-hand, of God communicating complete forgiveness to women who felt agonizing guilt for their abortions—including direct revelation that they are to forgive themselves and let it go. If God wishes them peace, who are we to condemn?

Thus, every suggestion in all of my posts speaks only to voluntary alternatives:

A starting point could be supporting counseling centers that help women facing an unintended pregnancy chart a plan that allows her to carry to term; supporting voluntary organizations that help women find employment, housing, job and life skills.

And, in this post, a call for the establishment of private rating agency(ies) along the lines of Underwriters Laboratory that certify abortion clinics as meeting standards for care.

But it’s pointless to continue pretending that abortion is just an easy, clean procedure without consequences. It takes almost no effort to find overwhelming evidence that abortion as practiced in this country is too often provided under uncaring-to-dangerous conditions.

Watch the Planned Parenthood videos (and, no, they have not been “doctored“). Read about Kermit Gosnell, and the many, many other clinics operating under dirty, not to say brutal, conditions. Read the many blog posts of women traumatized by abortions they did not want or tragically regret.

This alone ought incent us to call for abortion to be “Rare.”

However, abortion rates continue to run extremely high: more than a million per year in the U.S., cumulatively about 53 million since Roe v. Wade.

One reason people give for supporting abortion is concern for the growing percentage of children born into poverty. And it is indeed a fact that the number one reason women themselves cite for having an abortion is not being able to afford a baby.

Yet we have watched childhood poverty rates explode concurrent with the steadily high abortion rate, so abortion certainly doesn’t seem to be solving the problem of children born into poverty.

A current Brookings Institution report shows that single women of child bearing age who live below the poverty level are almost five times more likely to have a child than affluent single women, and concludes:

women with higher incomes are much more successful at ensuring that sex does not lead to an accidental baby. This almost certainly reflects their brighter economic and labor market prospects: simply put, they have more to lose from an unintended birth. Improving the economic and educational prospects of poorer women is therefore an important part of any strategy to reduce unintended birth rates. [Emphasis added]

A 2011 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper similarly concludes:

Our reading of these seminal and influential works is that they find common ground in the notion that growing up in an environment where there is little chance of social and economic advancement leads young women to bear children outside of marriage. These women perceive that they have so little chance for success in life …[that t]hey see no reason to postpone having a child and may even benefit from having one, regardless of marital status. [Emphasis added]

And Loretta Ross, co-founder of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, has observed,

if people are not convinced that they have realistic economic and educational opportunities, you could put a clinic in a girl’s bedroom and she would still think early motherhood is a better choice.

Thus, those concerned with childhood poverty would do far better to agitate to reduce barriers to economic and educational opportunities for the poor than continuing to support endless abortion: end the public school monopoly, and end minimum wage, licensing, zoning, and other hurdles to enterprise and gaining a foothold on the economic ladder.

Denying that there is no problem with abortion in America today does not serve women. At the least, individuals who care about women need to take action to see that the delivery of abortion in their communities is safe and caring: and establish safeguards to keep it that way. Work with them to provide counseling services so women can make a truly informed decision, right for each—including access to support should she decide to keep her baby. And if she decides to abort, offer post-counseling: many women have lingering issues they need help with.

Beyond this, a casual attitude to what is literally a life-changing practice undermines women and our culture, and does nothing to further alternative solutions. Yes, such solutions are complicated and multi-faceted—does that mean we don’t try?

If we really value women, why wouldn’t we want to achieve abortion’s being extremely rare? Wouldn’t that be a metric of a society that values women and provides an environment in which all have opportunity for rich and fulfilling lives?

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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