Recently, Ryan Anderson from First Things Blog defended President Bush’s pro-life record. Though he did not link to us, he mentioned that “several members of the blog Vox Nova” argue that Bush has not done too much against abortion. He links to Christopher Blosser from the Catholics in the Public Square blog to prove his point that many contributors from Vox Nova are ignoring the facts.
From reading both Ryan’s and Christoper’s points and the arguments being made by my fellow contributors– Henry, Morning’s Minion, Michael Iafrate, Nate Wildermuth, and Gerald Campbell–it is evident that pro-life success is defined quite differently depending on perspective.
Both Ryan and Christoper argue that pro-life success is equivalent to legislation. And if one accepts their definition of success, they are absolutely correct. Wow, President Bush has been the most successful president in US history regarding pro-life leadership and laws! The problem for both Anderson and Blosser is that none of our contributors look to legislation alone to draw their conclusions. They look to the numbers. And when the numbers are read, problems begin to emerge for many pro-lifers. The only organization that has thoroughly researched abortion is Planned Parenthood’s Alan Guttmacher Institute. And when we look at the research of the AGI we will notice a few significant points. First, abortion rates have steadily been declining since 1981. All of us should agree that any decline in abortion is a success. According to Anderson’s and Blosser’s logic one MAY conclude that anti-abortion LAWS affect abortion RATES, but if that is the case, then why was there a peak in abortions in 1989 under pro-life President Bush I and steep declines in abortion under pro-abortion President Clinton?
I started to ask these questions. I served on the Board of my State’s Right to Life office and I had to ask some hard questions. For instance, why was the abortion rate highest for Alaska Native women when they make up a small percentage of people in my State? Then, my questions went national. Why are African-American and Hispanic women more likely to abort than White women? When a person reads the same report she notices that a majority of women who abort are already mothers and over 50% of them are economically poor. I had to conclude that if pro-lifers REALLY are interested in decreasing abortion rates, then maybe changing our society and culture to support life AFTER birth would be the best option. I think the Feminists for Life technique is the most promising one to follow for concrete results. The other fact we notice from the report, is that the number of abortionists decreased tremendously during the same decline in the number of abortions, so abortion became more difficult to obtain. Troubling statistics for pro-life people shows that the numbers of doctors willing to offer abortions via “medicine” are increasing slightly. Since over 90% of all abortions occur in the first trimester, then our work is still cut out.
Another fact we see is that 80% of all women who abort are not married. Again, President Bush has worked to use the Government to support marriage and abstinence education. The problem–for people who care about decreasing abortion numbers–is that while those who partake in abstinence education delay sex until they older (good!) they don’t save it for marriage (bad!). We know the numbers of teens having sex outside of marriage has been declining since 1990 (the sharpest drop under pro-sex outside of marriage President Clinton) so the majority of those having abortions must not be teens! So delaying sex until older, doesn’t necessarily mean that the person will not get pregnant and not abort.
For me, all of the above made me question the typical solutions put forth by the Andersons and Blossers within the pro-life movement. I had to conclude that legislation does not equate with what occurs around the nation. After reading about nations around the world that do not have legalized abortion, I had to conclude that anti-abortion legislation does little to affect rates. POVERTY is INHERENTLY linked to abortion. If we pro-lifers REALLY CARE about abortion rates, we need to focus on poverty in our country and more pro-family legislation such as, paid sick leave, paid paternity/maternity leave (this promotes breastfeeding which helps overall health care and decreases illness tremendously), increased daycare subsidies, paid healthcare, to name a few.
I care deeply about abortion. It is the reason I voted not once, but TWICE for President Bush. And if it were only abortion legislation that I looked at, I would be able to sleep better at night. I have believed along with many fellow American Catholics that it is our DUTY to “vote the pro-life vote.” And pro-life has ALWAYS been defined as the “lesser of two evils.” So it was with this mindset that I voted for President Bush and his Congress that supported him. It was with this mindset that I was able to ignore what was happening in our country outside of the whole abortion issue. To many pro-life Catholics, abortion is such a deal breaker that regardless of ANYTHING ELSE it is what really matters. So I, like many of my fellow Catholics who were instrumental in getting Bush elected a second time, we share the responsibility for the pro-torture, pro-rendition, pro-war crime legislation and actions of the Bush Regime. And EVEN when a law school is convening a symposium to prosecute Bush and his Administration for war crimes, many of my fellow pro-life Catholics CONTINUE to argue he is the MOST pro-life president in history. It is barbaric! How on earth have we reached a point where abortion is completely disconnected from the culture of life where we can celebrate Bush’s anti-abortion legislation and overlook crimes committed in our name for our own protection! El Salvador has one of the strictest abortion laws in the world! How is THAT for pro-life! And yet, the SAME government responsible for restricting abortion, is the SAME government responsible for 98% of the massacres and genocide within that country! How could ANY pro-life person celebrate a government that does that! I haven’t even looked at the illegal abortion rates in El Salvador and do not feel it is necessary.
Is abortion so sacrosanct to the pro-life movement in America that no other human life or human atrocity matters? At what cost have we won this pro-life legislation? That is my question. So yes, Anderson and Blosser. Continue to feel pride in Bush’s anti-abortion legislation! You are correct that Bush and Congress have passed more anti-abortion legislation in history.
But for the 90% of women, it doesn’t impact them. And for those innocents who have been tortured in our name at different Military instillations around the country, it is little comfort! And for those of us, American Catholic pro-lifers who no longer believe in the traditional Right to Life/Republican strategy, Anderson’s and Blosser’s arguments sound so hollow!