The Truth About Abortion

Because abortion is one of the major issues that divides us along political party lines, it is time for liberals/progressives/Democrats to reframe and take the ‘high ground’ on this issue.  Therefore, if you concur with the information in this article, please:

  • Spread this information by sharing the link to this article.
  • Share the link with someone you know why is “pro-life” and engage (don’t debate) them in a discussion based on this information.
  • If you know a politician at the state or federal level, share this link with them.

Many political analysts agree the issue that keeps conservatives, especially Christian conservatives coming back to the Republican Party is abortion.  They want abortion abolished in the United States: illegal, with dire punishment if you have an abortion or assist someone in getting one.  But how realistic is this and how effective have Republicans been in accomplishing this goal? 

Republican state legislatures will make abortion illegal at the state level.  It’s true that Republican state legislatures have made it difficult to obtain an abortion, but abortion is still legal in all 50 states.  Additionally, many laws restricting abortion have been struck down by state supreme courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.  For example, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has a conservative majority, in June of this year, it struck down a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.  What many conservatives fail to realize is that courts primarily base their decisions on legal precedence.  In the case of the Louisiana law, it was identical to a Texas law the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 2016.

A Republican majority Congress will pass a law to overturn Roe v. Wade or will pass laws to make abortion more difficult to obtain.  In the nearly half a century since the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is legal in the Roe v. Wade case (1973), Republicans have held a majority in both houses of Congress a number of times.  Not once have they passed a bill to overturn or restrict abortion.  Currently, Republicans have proposed several bills limiting abortion, but they know it is just for show, that is, just to pander to their base without any intent of actually getting it enacted.  They could have easily passed abortion legislation in 2015, 2016, and 2017 when they had majorities in both the House and Senate, but they didn’t. 

If reelected, President Trump will nominate another conservative judge to the Supreme Court and in a new case the Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.  The first part of this sentence is true; if Trump is reelected, he will nominate a conservative to the bench.  However, the last part of the sentence isn’t as certain.  First, he has to find a qualified judge and that’s getting harder and harder for him to do.  Remember Brett Kavanaugh’s emotional breakdown and crying jag during his confirmation hearing?  Republicans have already done Trump a favor by confirming this barely qualified wuss to the Court.  Even if they maintain their Senate majority, they’re not likely to repeat that spectacle.  And as noted above, just because you have a conservative court doesn’t mean it will overturn Roe v. Wade, which has been established law for nearly half a century.

Overturning Roe v. Wade will make abortion illegal again and therefore there will be no more abortions.  Duh!  As we have seen with the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and the current failed war on drugs, making something illegal doesn’t make it go away.  No one knows for sure how many abortions there were each year when it was illegal.  According to the Guttmacher Institute, it probably ranged between 200,000 to 1.2 million, with an estimate of 829,000 in 1967 based on then available data.  Keep in mind that the population of the United States was lower fifty years ago.  Today there are millions more women of childbearing age, therefore, there would be even more, not less, abortions if abortion is made illegal.

If abortion is illegal, we can criminally punish abortion providers and even the women who have an abortion.  The majority of abortions are no longer carried out the way they were when it was illegal.  Nowadays a woman is given the pill mifepristone and then two days later she takes another pill, misoprostol.  This creates a process similar to a miscarriage.  Even if these drugs were banned in the U.S., they are readily available in other countries and thus people would find a way to obtain them.  If your 17 year old daughter wants to end an unwanted pregnancy, all she would need to do is ask a friend of a friend to get her the pills.  She’ll abort and you’ll never know it.  Making something illegal doesn’t make it go away.  

Democrats are pro-abortion whereas Republicans are anti-abortion.  Actually, it’s the other way around.  Liberals recognize that abortion is a physically, psychologically, and emotionally challenging decision and action.  Therefore, everything should be done to reduce the need to have to make that decision.  That’s why they support sex education, family planning, and access to contraception as the best ways to reduce teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and the need for abortions.  For example, the Colorado Family Planning Initiative made these interventions available to low income women and to teenage girls with their parent’s permission.  Within two years the program attained these results:

  • Teen birth rate was nearly cut in half.
  • Teen abortion rate was nearly cut in half.
  • Births to women without a high school education fell 38 percent.
  • Second and higher order births to teens were cut by 57 percent.
  • Birth rate among young women ages 20-24 was cut by 20 percent.
  • Average age of first birth increased by 1.2 years among all women.
  • Rapid repeat births declined by 12 percent among all women.
  • Costs avoided: $66.1-$69.6 million.[1]

It is my understanding that IUDs were offered as one form of contraception, but I couldn’t find data about pregnancies and abortions among that cohort.  As IUDs are 99% effective, I assume that unplanned pregnancies and abortions were essentially eliminated among that group, as long as they stayed on that form of birth control.

We also have evidence that these interventions work based on other sources.  For example, abortions have been declining in the U.S. in part due to the Affordable Care Act, which requires that employers offer health insurance plans that pay for contraception (which unfortunately was partially overturned in a recent Supreme Court decision and thus may result in more, not fewer abortions).[2]  Similar findings have been observed when comparing the U.S. to countries with universal health care, which have even lower abortion rates than the U.S. because contraception is more readily available.[3]

Compare this with actions taken by the Republican Party.  Republicans have tried to repeal the ACA’s requirement that health plans pay for contraception and they have cut funding to Planned Parenthood; funding that is used for women’s health initiatives including family planning and paying for birth control.  And in Colorado, the Republican led state legislature held up funding for the state’s Family Planning Initiative despite the successful results the program was achieving.

Let’s be honest.  Conservatives can vote Republican for the next 50 years and abortion will still be legal.  The Republican Party is not interested in ending abortions in this country.  If they were, they had ample opportunity to do so over the past five decades.  And if they wanted to curtail abortions, they would support programs that actually work.  They just say they want to make it illegal to get elected. 

However, that doesn’t mean that Democrats have done a great job addressing this issue.  Americans tend to identify along dichotomous lines, either pro-life or pro-choice and based on this framing Democrats and their liberal supporters come across as being anti-life.[4] 

Between one in six and one in four pregnancies end in a miscarriage.  For expectant parents it is a time of grieving.  People who grieve for the loss of an unborn child and its potential as a human being are not anti-life.  Unfortunately, by accepting the label of pro-choice, this is exactly the image created by that frame.  To realistically address the issue of abortion, liberals/progressives/Democrats need to reframe and relabel the issue.  As noted above, we are anti-abortion because we believe women should not have to be in the position of having to make a choice.  While women should always have the right to choose, the need to make that choice and thus the need for abortion should be a rarity. 

Fortunately, medical science is on our side, as contraceptives are much more effective than they were a generation ago.  The pill is 99% effective when taken as prescribed.  Birth control pills only lose their effectiveness when not taken every day.[5]  IUDs are 99+% and because they are implanted, women don’t have to worry about remembering to take their medication.  And if these measures fail, the morning after pill prevents an egg from becoming fertilized: i.e., it doesn’t abort a fertilized egg.  Consequently, unplanned pregnancy is largely avoidable.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party continues to cling to the pro-choice label and all the baggage that goes along with that frame.  As a result, Democrats lose support from Americans who would otherwise support them on other issues that would directly benefit them such as the minimum wage and tax reform.  Additionally, given the overt racism of the Republican Party, few African-Americans identify as Republican.  Nonetheless, given that Democrats have not always fulfilled their campaign promises to the African-American community, many Blacks are not enthusiastically Democrats.  And, because a large segment of the African-American community is religious they tend to be anti-abortion.  Thus, African-American support of the Democratic Party is not what it could or should be.  

In regard to abortion, it is time for the Democratic Party to relabel and reframe itself.  To accomplish that substantively, it will need to clearly articulate that abortion should be a rarity and that the Party supports policies and programs to achieve that goal.  To reiterate, this doesn’t mean that women should not have the right to choice, rather, it should mean that women should not have to be put into the position to choose.  Unlike Obamacare, which Democrats shied away from after passing the legislation, this should be a major health and social issue that Democrats can champion.  Despite the Republican Party’s dishonest and disreputable position on abortion, unless Democrats and their liberal/progressive supporters get behind this initiative, they will fail to garner the political support of the majority of Americans.

For the past three decades, the number of abortions in the United States has been declining as access to sex education, family planning, and contraception has improved.  It’s a trend that, as a nation united, we should continue to support.


[2] Abortions dropped by 20% after passage of the Affordable Care Act.




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