This is a continuation of our analysis of the question, “Does Pro-life Logic Mean Women Who Get Abortions Should Be Punished?” addressed by Greg Koukl of the Stand to Reason podcast. (Start with part 1 here.)
A future America with abortion illegal
Koukl has a simple—some might say childish—attitude toward abortion.
Pro-lifers would like to see abortion abolished, but the only way to really abolish abortion ultimately is to make it illegal, and then the incidence of abortion would shrink to virtually nothing. (@4:05)
With abortion being such an important topic to Koukl’s ministry, you’d think that he would be more educated about it. He’s completely wrong. Making abortions illegal simply means that abortions will be done, just illegally.
We know because America has already tried the experiment. From the Guttmacher Institute:
Before the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, data on abortion in the United States were scarce. In 1955, experts had estimated, on the basis of qualitative assumptions, that 200,000–1,200,000 illegal abortions were performed each year. Despite its wide range, this estimate remained the most reliable indicator of the magnitude of induced abortion for many years. In 1967, researchers confirmed this estimate by extrapolating data from a randomized-response survey conducted in North Carolina: They concluded that a total of 800,000 induced (mostly illegal) abortions were performed nationally each year.
Compare this with the abortion rate of 700,000 per year in the U.S. today, with twice the population of 1955.
A future America where abortion was illegal could simply switch to the simple medical (drug-induced) abortion in many cases. This is already the predominant procedure in many European countries.
We also have examples worldwide showing that making abortion illegal does little to reduce the rate. From CBS News:
Abortion rates are highest where the procedure is illegal, according to a new study. The study also found nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, with the vast majority of unsafe abortions occurring in developing countries.
The Guttmacher Institute says, “Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates” and notes that in Africa and Latin America, where “abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries,” the rate per capita is more than twice that in the U.S. and Western Europe.
Unsurprisingly, poorer safety correlates with abortion being illegal. The New York Times reported on a World Health Organization study: “About 20 million abortions that would be considered unsafe are performed each year [and] 67,000 women die as a result of complications from those abortions, most in countries where abortion is illegal.” That’s a mortality rate of 1 for every 300. By comparison, the mortality rate in the U.S., with legal abortion, is 1 for every 170,000 (the mortality rate for women giving birth is 15 times worse).
Abortion providers are basically vultures, right?
Koukl next attacks the ethics of the abortion providers.
Without the [abortion] doctors, who are exploiting people’s difficult circumstances for money, you probably aren’t going to have the abortions. (@19:16)
Apparently, I have my ignorance to thank for being able to look at doctors and see hard-working professionals who view their patients as more than piles of cash.
In contrast to Koukl’s contempt for abortion providers and his lack of concern for women with unwanted pregnancies, consider Dr. Willie Parker, who travels from his home in Chicago to Mississippi twice a month to be one of only two doctors providing abortions at Mississippi’s last abortion clinic. Women desperately need a medical procedure, and Dr. Parker provides it. He said, “I do abortions because I am a Christian.”
Remember Kermit Gosnell’s filthy abortion clinic? Pro-lifers were horrified, and yet those conditions are what they’re pushing for. Making abortion illegal doesn’t eliminate abortion, it just drives it underground to clinics that aren’t inspected. When organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide safe abortions are squeezed out by nuisance regulations or other regulatory hurdles, illegal operations will fill the vacuum. Similarly, when noisy abortion protesters create a gauntlet at safe clinics, women will be driven to ones that cut corners. One of Gosnell’s patients said about the closest Planned Parenthood clinic, “The picketers out there, they just scared me half to death.”
Three years ago, I attended a celebration of the forty-year anniversary of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal in the United States. Sarah Weddington was the lawyer on the winning side, and she spoke of her experience on a plane trip. She was wearing a button showing a coat hanger with a red “not” line through it (like this) as a symbol of the pre-Roe days that she was determined America would not revisit.
A female flight attendant walked past her several times until she finally said, “I’ve just got to ask you: what have you got against coat hangers?”
Weddington’s point was that this young woman had lived her entire life with abortion as a right. She didn’t know of a time before that right when coat hangers were the abortion method of last resort. More importantly, she didn’t realize how tenuous that right is. Millions of conservatives would make abortion illegal in an instant if they could. Complacency is not an option.
Continue to part 4: “Arguing the Pro-Life Case (Such as It Is)“
“Explain to me how making abortion illegal
wouldn’t lower abortion rates.”
Explain to me how making drugs illegal
didn’t lower drug use rates.
— commenter adam
Image credit: Pēteris, flickr, CC