Rewriting the Pro-Life Agenda

Dear Pro-Lifers:

I’d like to make some suggestions. You believe that abortion is murder. Okay. You therefore understandably want to end or at least reduce the practice of abortion. I get that. What I don’t get is the way you go about it. Protesting at abortion clinics only scares women who are already in very difficult situations, and legally restricting abortion will not actually achieve your goals.

Do you want to know where the practice of abortion is most rare? Western Europe (12 per 1000 women). And yet Western Europe is quite known for having some of the most open abortion laws in the world. Isn’t that odd? Shouldn’t abortion be most common in Western Europe, rather than least common? Do you want know which region has the greatest number of abortions? Africa (29 per 1000 women). And yet, abortion is completely illegal in most African countries. Isn’t that odd? Shouldn’t abortion be most rare in Africa, not most common?

Outlawing abortion does not work. Put quite simply, legally restricting abortion does not decrease the number of abortions that take place. In fact, doing so will simply increase the practice of illegal abortions as we have already begun to see. This leads to harmful consequences for women, as we see in Africa, where tens of thousands of women die each year from unsafe abortions.

But don’t despair! It is still possible to drastically decrease the number of abortions that take place, as Western Europe has shown. How? The answer is simple.

1. Encourage birth control. This includes both comprehensive sex education in schools and offering women government subsidized birth control. Half of all pregnancies that occur in the United States today are unintended, and of those, four in ten end in abortions. This accounts, in fact, for essentially all abortions that occur. The key, then, is to eliminate unintended pregnancies. The simplest way to do that is to increase use of birth control. Yes, I know you are probably against sex outside of marriage and perhaps against birth control itself, but which is worth? Sex outside of marriage (by someone who would likely be doing it anyway), birth control, or murder (for that is how you see abortion)? Wouldn’t it be better to compromise slightly on a few issues in order to save babies’ lives?

2. Support mothers. Sixty percent of women who have abortions in the United States already have at least one child. These are not women who hate children; these are women who know how much work and money it takes to raise a child, and do not believe they will be able to raise an additional child. In giving reasons for having an abortion, three-fourths of women say they cannot afford it, and three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with their work or school or their ability to care for other individuals. Half say they do not want to be a single parent, which is no wonder given the lack of support for single mothers. This really should be no surprise. For the working mother (and 60% of American women work outside of the home), issues like maternity leave, health care costs, and daycare loom large. Women in the U.S. are guaranteed at least six weeks of maternity leave, but they need not paid for this time, resulting in a loss of income. In addition, daycare and health care costs are high; where I live, daycare costs $10,000 a year and adding my child to my health care plan costs $4,000 per year. Then factor in the fact that 42% of women who obtain abortions already live under the federal poverty line during a time when welfare has been gutted and made only more difficult to obtain. Is it any wonder that so many women choose abortion? It does not have to be this way. Western Europe supports it mothers, offering generous welfare benefits, paid maternity leave, government health care for them and their children, and free or subsidized daycare. Perhaps if we did the same, women would not have to choose between feeding the children they have and having another child. Perhaps if we did the same, the number of abortions would decrease.

It strikes me, then, as incredibly wrongheaded that you pro-lifers work at every bend to defeat the two things that actually have a chance to decrease the abortion rate – widespread birth control and governmental support for women with children – while at the same time advocating tactics that have been shown ineffective – legally restricting abortion and protesting outside of abortion clinics. Is your intent to save babies, or to shame women who have sex when you think they shouldn’t? Because at this point, I’m seriously confused.

Sincerely, Libby

PS – You’re probably wondering where I got my statistics. Feel free to read for yourself: For stats on abortion worldwide, here. For stats on abortion in the U.S., here. For a New York Times article on the ineffectual nature of legal restrictions on abortion, here. For statistics on the number of working women, here. Also, for an interesting examination of late term abortions, see here.

NOTE: See here for an example of how supposedly pro-life politicians are driving up abortion rates today by cutting birth control services and services for new mothers.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.