The Republican Party has a narrative for being pro-life that goes something like this: keep electing Republicans to office and then someday in the future (if we can all hold office for long enough) we’ll repeal Roe v. Wade.
That’s pretty much it. The entire plan can be summed up in the words “vote Republican.” But voting Republican has changed hardly anything.
Conservatives can point to how they dropped public funding for health programs that that include abortion and some posturing about bans on late term “partial birth” abortions but these changes don’t really affect the larger outcomes. Thousands of women still seek out medical assistance to terminate unwanted pregnancies every year regardless of whether or not the White House is occupied by a Republican or a Democrat. Once the realization dawns that mere voting doesn’t change pregnancy or abortion rates then it’s time for life-long pro-lifers like myself to gird our loins and start facing the following facts:
Reality: Roe v. Wade isn’t going anywhere. The Roe decision has been law for forty years even though twenty-four of those years found a Republican in the White House. What’s more, most Americans don’t want to see the law changed. Even if by some miracle Roe were repealed, the issue would then simply return to the states, where abortion would remain legal in most of our major population centers solving exactly nothing. Continuing to make attacking Roe the main focus of pro-life policy is pointless.
Reality: People who aren’t ready to be parents are going to keep having sex. Religious groups may not like to hear this but just telling young people not to have sex is a losing proposition. Whatever your moral beliefs on pre-marital sex, in a country where most kids lose their virginity by 17 it’s time to stop pretending that we can preach our way into stopping unwanted pregnancies. This is especially true given the fact that the average age of first marriage is now well into most people’s 20′s. How many 25-year-old virgins do you know?
Reality: Most women won’t carry a baby to term just to give it up for adoption. This one should be self-evident. Terminating a pregnancy of a fetus you’ve never felt move, never heard cry, and never held is much easier than the thought of giving up a baby — your baby — to be raised by somebody else. Adoption is a very hard sell and promoting it isn’t going to significantly reduce abortion numbers.
Reality: Free contraception combined with good education reduces abortion rates. One would think that this would be greeted by all sides of the issue as great news. After all, making available contraception is relatively cheap compared to the cost of paying public assistance costs to raise a baby that a mom can’t afford — one of the largest reasons why women have abortions in the first place. So why aren’t we slinging out condoms, pills, and IUD’s like breath mints? Well…
Reality: Christians often do more harm than good. The Catholics church not only takes a hard stance against artificial birth control, they also have rules against any sexual activities that won’t generally get you pregnant. In short, if you follow good Catholic rules, you must roll the dice on getting pregnant every. single. time. that you have sex. As hard a line as the Vatican takes, however, at least Catholics are consistent.
Conservative evangelicals, on the other hand, generally have no personal problem at all with birth control but still don’t want to give it out to the people who are most likely to end up with an unwanted pregnancy: young people and poor people. Quite frankly, that stymies me unless the point of the exercise is just feeling morally superior. If that’s what you’re after then refusing to educate and provide contraception to women you don’t think should be having sex only to turn around and scream “murderer” at those same women when they take a desperate walk to a women’s clinic is the height of hypocrisy.
Those are the facts. Now here are some things we should be able to all agree on.
Nobody loves abortion. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of fetal rights vs. woman’s choice it’s pretty clear that the need to terminate a pregnancy is not a desired outcome. It takes multiple points of failure to bring a woman to the position where she is pregnant and seeking an abortion as the measure of last resort.
The solutions are not partisan. Any plan to reduce abortion rates that starts with “vote for my party and…” is probably a trap. Like so many other issues, the issue of abortion has been exploited by fear-mongering tactics from both sides for far too long with little regard to what actually works in favor of what will get the most votes. That should anger us all more than a little.
Life doesn’t end at birth. That seems like an obvious statement but it seems that conservatives need to have it said anyway. If you have successfully convinced a woman to deliver a baby instead of aborting it then you had better have a plan for how you’re going to feed, clothe, and educate that baby and help that person become a contributing member of society. If you don’t then you may be pro-fetus but you’re not truly pro-life because having a life is more than just being alive.
The church can do better. Whatever the moral objections that religious groups may have to condoning what they believe is illicit sex, one would think that on the scale of sin that the perceived taking of a human life would easily outweigh mere fornication. It’s time for Catholics, evangelicals, and others to wake up and realize that our ox is in the ditch, our ass is in a sling, or whatever other metaphor will allow church groups to start being part of the solution instead of merely piling shame on top of women who need help.
So I’ll leave it to you. What other things do you believe would help reduce the number of abortions and help both women and children without the need to endlessly vote for one party or another? Are real solutions possible?