Two of our kids are now hiking the land of teens. It’s an amazing land because teens are amazing people. They’re learning lots about themselves, developing viewpoints, and eager to share. Mariana, a real live wire, will cut loose with just about anything. Joe, with the mind of an engineer, will respond in exasperation, “Common sense!” Of course, adults need it, too. My dad always enjoyed kidding my school-superintendent sister that she had four degrees, none in common sense!
During the election campaign some pundits, even Catholic ones, suggested that abortions increased during the Bush years over the Clinton years. That didn’t make common sense because unlike his predecessor, President Bush took pro-life positions. Sure enough, the pundits were wrong. The Alan Guttmacher Institute (a research arm of Planned Parenthood) and the federal Center for Disease Control both report that during the Bush presidency abortions decreased yearly from the Clinton levels. At their highest, abortions in the Bush years were lower than in the lowest Clinton year.
The pundits’ claim about the increase in abortions was part of a suggestion that efforts to reverse Roe v. Wade have failed and should be abandoned. They claimed that the focus should be on reducing the number of abortions through social programs addressing economic causes underlying decisions to abort. And they argued that the Obama abortion plan, even with the right to abortion as its cornerstone, would best reduce abortions. It didn’t make sense then, and it really doesn’t make sense now.
Economics do factor into abortion statistics. About 30% of all U.S. abortions are at least partly attributed to economics. But if economics were the driving force, then abortions rates should be very high among the poor and very low among the rich. Statistics don’t support it. In 2005 in Mexico, there were 0.65 abortions per 1000 pregnancies. Only 0.07% of reported pregnancies ended in abortion. In the U.S., there were 291.5 abortions per 1000 pregnancies, and nearly 23% ended in abortions. Until recently, abortion in Mexico was illegal. Even India, which limits abortions to economic/social reasons and hard cases, only reported a 2-3% abortion rate in 2001.
What really drives abortions are the mindset supporting them and the ability to so readily obtain them. Laws barring or restricting abortions speak to both. The primary purpose of law is not to punish but to establish value. God gave us the Ten Commandments to establish the moral values guiding our relationships with Him and our neighbors. Punishments were imposed to deter disrespect for these values, with greater punishments reserved for graver sins. Civil law does the same. But by repealing laws, we discard social values and so allow different mindsets to take control. For example, repealing laws against theft would say that stealing is acceptable. Thefts would increase, even by the well-to-do. Likewise, striking the laws upholding the value of human life tells women that their “clumps of tissue” aren’t worth protecting. Even the best social programs have a hard time being heard above that constant drumbeat.
It gets worse. Once laws are scrapped, nothing stops the onslaught of abortionists. They invade black and ethnic neighborhoods, school areas, or anywhere else they can feast. In 2005-06 Planned Parenthood performed 289,750 abortions, in contrast to providing pre-natal care in only 11,058 cases and making just 2,413 referrals for adoptions. And it’s not the only mill out there. Without laws protecting women, many fall prey to the calls to abort. It’s like moving a tavern next to an alcoholic. With access so easy, the calls to seek a quick-fix become irresistible.
So what is to be made of the claim that the Obama plan will reduce abortions? By protecting the right to abortion at all costs, the plan is doomed to fail. And early returns are showing just that. Within days of taking office, President Obama overturned the Mexico City policy prohibiting the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund abortions abroad. Unless we don’t count third-world unborn as humans, their death toll will rise. Along party lines, the Senate has now refused to allow states to cover unborn children and provide pre-natal care to poor mothers under the SCHIP insurance program. How does that reduce abortions?
Unfortunately, there’s more. During the campaign, the President said that he opposes continued federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers. His plan to reduce abortions de-funds the very organizations working so hard to reduce abortions. He also promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. The Act will invalidate laws that will require women to be fully informed about abortion. It will invalidate laws requiring parents to be notified of a daughter’s abortion decision. It will end restrictions on partial-birth and other late-term abortions. It will even force U.S. taxpayers to fund abortions. Imagine, free abortions. It’s like telling that alcoholic next to the tavern that the booze is free. It’s estimated that FOCA will increase U.S. abortions by 125,000 annually. Then there is the President’s promise to appoint judges to keep abortion legal forever. How’s that for a plan to reduce abortions!
Social programs reducing abortions are good, and we need them. But they will do little unless we are also working to end legal abortion.
It only makes common sense.
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.
© Paul V. Esposito 2009. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us on the web at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/