Common ground on abortion: effective and principled approaches
With yesterday’s anniversary of Roe v. Wade and today’s massive March for Life here in DC, the often heated conversation around abortion id back in the headlines. In the midst of these debates, it’s always refreshing to find people of faith and goodwill (both those who oppose and those who support legal access to abortion) who want to work together to reduce unintended pregnancies and support women and families.
Sometimes, anti-abortion advocates inaccurately criticize such common ground efforts as ineffectual or unprincipled. Those who want to reduce abortions, they argue, should simply support laws that restrict access to the procedure, whether by shrinking the legal time-frame, adding waiting periods, or enacting regulatory laws designed to burden clinics into closing among other strategies.
But a new Guttmacher Institute report finds that globally, these kinds of highly restrictive laws are not actually associated with lower abortion rates. While this study compares national level legislation in different countries, these findings suggest that the restrictive abortion laws many states have passed in the last few years may not actually accomplish their ostensible goal of driving down the number of abortions.
Bryan Cones at U.S. Catholic has another thoughtful takeway from the study:
If being pro-life means being pro-women and pro-children already born in addition to being pro-unborn life, then perhaps it is time to focus equally on giving women power to decide when to get pregnant in the first place. Catholic teaching may be opposed to most forms of modern contraception, but in this case, perhaps it is better to choose the lesser of two evils–or at least this evidence seems to point in that direction.
The report also notes that, “Where abortion is legal on broad grounds, it is generally safe, and where it is illegal in most circumstances, it is generally unsafe.” For some, even those who are morally opposed to abortion, concerns abut safety and women’s health justifiably end up playing an important role in their opinions highly restrictive abortion laws.
Recently, the abortion debate has taken a turn for the extreme, with state legislatures across the country passing more and more restrictive abortion measures, the issue playing a role in dirty political tricks in South Carolina’s GOP primary, and Personhood USA (a far-right anti-abortion organization) attracting every leading GOP candidate except Romney to a forum in Greenville, S.C. earlier last week.
It’s time to inject some reasonable rhetoric back into our political conversation and figure out ways of lowering abortion rates in this country that reflect the values and concerns of those on both sides of the issue.
H/T and image via Think Progress
UPDATE: Chart from the Guttmacher Institute report via Mother Jones: