Making Abortion Illegal Reduces the Abortion Rate

Making Abortion Illegal Reduces the Abortion Rate December 1, 2008

We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. – George Orwell

When you make something illegal, you tend to get less of it. Partly this is because people are understandably less likely to engage in an activity if there is even a small chance it will lead to men with guns locking them inside a small room for an extended period of time. Partly this is because illegal activities, if they are to take place, must take place underground, which when the activity requires a willing buyer and seller, makes it harder for the necessary parties to find each other. One sees a lot more advertising for beer now than in the time of prohibition. There is also the effect criminality can have on social norms, and on people’s views of the behavior in question. All of these things combine to make the illegal activity more costly to engage in than it would be otherwise, and as the cost of something goes up, the incidence of it typically goes down. How much of a reduction accompanies criminalization will, of course, depend on a variety of factors, such as the level of enforcement and so on. And of course to say that criminalization reduces the likelihood of an activity is not the same as saying that it eliminates it altogether. Still, it would be passing strange if taking a illegalization did not have an effect on the rate at which the newly illegal activity occurred.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of people who, for whatever reason, want to exempt abortion from this line of reasoning. So, for example, Radical Catholic Mom cites data from the Guttmacher Institute purporting to show high abortion rates in countries where abortion is illegal.

Now the Guttmacher Institute is the research arm of Planned Parenthood. As such, it has both a financial and an ideological interest in finding that outlawing abortion doesn’t decrease the abortion rate. The risk of bias due to these interests is particularly high when you are trying to calculate the prevalence of an illegal activity, since reliable data on such activities is generally harder to come by (for obvious reasons), which leaves more room for creativity when it comes to crunching the numbers. For example, as William Robert Johnson notes:

Many [Guttmacher] estimates are based on limited surveys. Some such surveys are limited to urban areas, which are not representative of rural areas. Other studies use compound assumptions to develop a figure for illegal abortions from data on hospitalizations for miscarriages.

Even if we take the Guttmacher numbers at face value, however, the claim that criminalization does not effect the abortion rate does not bear scrutiny. Abortion in Ireland, for example, is illegal in most cases, whereas across the pond in England and Wales it is basically legal (though with more restrictions than in the U.S.). According to Guttmacher, the abortion rate for Ireland in 1996 was 5.9. For England and Wales, 15.6. That is, by Guttmacher’s own numbers, the abortion rate for England (where abortion is legal) is several times what it is in Ireland (where it is not). Presumably the lower Irish rate is not due to the country’s fanatical devotion to sex education and contraception.

The article Radical Catholic Mom cites doesn’t give the data for Poland (coincidentally enough), but examination of data from other sources produces a similar result. Despite having criminalized abortion (or, rather, because it has done so) the abortion rate in Poland is far lower than in other Eastern European countries (for a fuller examination of the effect of Poland’s anti-abortion statute on the abortion rate, see here).

How, then, does Guttmacher come up with the claim that abortion rates are no lower in countries where abortion is illegal than where it is legal? Simple. Abortion is disproportionately legal in the developed world and disproportionately illegal in the developing world. And, at least the way that Guttmacher calculates its statistics, the developing world tends to have much higher abortion rates generally. Once this is corrected for, and one is comparing developed countries where abortion is legal to developed countries where it is not and developing countries where it is legal to those where it is not, it becomes clear that criminalization has a significant effect on the abortion rate.

If one wants corroboration of this fact, one need only look to American history. As Stephen Levitt and Steven Dubner have noted:

In the first year after Roe v. Wade, some 750,000 women had abortions in the United States (representing one abortion for every four live births). By 1980, the number of abortions had reached 1.6 million (one for every 2.25 live births), where it leveled off.

To believe that legalization did not increase the number of abortions performed in the U.S., one would have to believe that both that there were around 850,000 illegal abortions in America every year prior to Roe (despite abortion being legal in several of the largest states). One would also have to believe that, upon legalization, the number of abortions in the U.S. suddenly and inexplicably fell by about half, only to return to its prior level over the next decade. The first assumption is merely implausible. The second is absurd.

"I knew a painter who said that Titian was the greatest painter of all time. ..."

Scattering Blossoms, Fallen Leaves: Titian in ..."
"How jaded must I be to feel the words of bishops against any atrocity today ..."

US Bishops Speak on Gun Violence
"I was also thinking of a song I heard, and in fact misheard, in childhood, ..."

The Church is not an Army, ..."
"I can actually see this text being read in two very opposite ways. Unfortunately it ..."

The Church is not an Army, ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Policraticus

    One of the objections, I think, that can be raised against the claim that abortion rates do not decrease when the practice is outlawed is the consideration of what form of government in in place and what role laws and law enforcement plays in a given nation. Comparing the U.S. to Brazil, for example, in terms of abortion rates and hypothetical scenarios of legal restriction would not give us much beyond conjecture. It seems to me that such a comparison would not indicate what the abortion rate in the U.S. would be like if abortion were to be outlawed. However, that does not mean the comparison would be completely useless, especially if it is all we have to make a judgment based on something concrete.

  • S.B.

    This is as good a time as any to point to what a centrist sociology professor says about the abortion/poverty connection (on his blog Gruntled Center):

    Pro-life centrists see that with the strong Democratic wave in the recent election, there will be no federal ban on abortion. Instead, they are seeking common ground with pro-choice groups to reduce the number of abortions.

    The focus of religious groups on both sides is to get more social services to poor pregnant women to help them raise their children. Jacqueline Salmon’s Washington Post article notes that poor women are four times more likely to have abortions than middle-class women are. She quotes Alexia Kelly of the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good as concluding that “Clearly, poverty impacts the abortion rate.”

    I think this gets the causation mostly backwards. Poor women are actually less likely to abort any particular pregnancy than middle-class women are. However, poor women are much more likely to get pregnant than middle-class women are. Pregnancy is part of poor women’s lifestyle — that is a big reason why they stay poor.

  • Smoking marijuana is illegal, too.

  • blackadderiv

    Smoking marijuana is illegal, too.

    Thanks for the tip.

  • jonathanjones02

    One thing that we tend to forget about the Roe decision is that a large number of restrictions and bans were overturned overnight. These restrictions and bans were decided democratically, and the abortion rate was significantly lower then – I think in no small part because of the influence of law over behavior (just as no-fault divorce has impacted the divorce rate hugely).

    We must work for legal protections for the unborn, and we must overturn Roe. This has to be a central part of the pro-life movement – as it has been since the early 90s most notably. On this score, Bush has been excellent, and he deserves a lot of credit.

  • “One thing that we tend to forget about the Roe decision is that a large number of restrictions and bans were overturned overnight.”

    Roe overturned abortion restrictions in forty-six states.

  • Kurt

    Of course making abortion illegal reduces the abortion rate. And reduction in the number of abortions is a goal I and many others earnestly desire. Too bad we are without a worthwhile social movement that would just stick to this basic policy goal without loading it up with a lot of other doctrines. Given we have no such movement, some of us who are anti-abortion are looking elsewhere, while others continue their campaign against “blood-thirsty, vampiric, infant-slaughtering” politicans.

  • I note with bemusement that conservative pro-lifers seem to spend their energy on arguing for legal bans on abortion, while liberal pro-lifers seem to spend their energy on criticizing conservative pro-lifers.

    Any chance we could get together here? We’ll work to ban abortion while you guys work to reduce demand for it? Whichever side finishes first helps the other.

  • …while others continue their campaign against “blood-thirsty, vampiric, infant-slaughtering” politicans.

    The thing is, though, that pro-abortion politicians are, as a matter of dispassionate fact, blood-thirsty, vampiric, and infant-slaughtering. It is all well and good to make prudential judgments given a certain base of facts. But it is absolutely necessary, as prerequisite to making such prudential judgments, to fully understand and acknowledge that base of facts prior to making any prudential judgments.

  • Paul, liberal pro-lifers are passionately against abortion for themselves and others as long as they dont have to vote pro-life.

  • Paul,

    I agree, in principle, but it seems that the two problems that we run into are:

    1) Progressive pro-lifers get angry at conservatives for denouncing progressive politicians (whom the progressive pro-lifers like for their progressive policies) who are strongly pro-abortion. This causes the progressive pro-lifers to denounce the conservative pro-lifers as mean (see Kurt, above) and the conservative pro-lifers to denounce the progressive pro-lifers as not caring about abortion.

    2) In order to work on their half of “reducing the need for abortion”, they often endorse policies which the conservative pro-lifers actively object to. Whether for strictly political reasons (conservatives generally oppose socialized healthcare, increased welfare statism, etc.) or because the conservative pro-lifers think that the progressive pro-lifers’ policies will in fact _increase_ the need for abortion. In that regard, one of my objections to RCM’s call for comprehensive sex education focused on contraception is that I think it would increase the need for abortion rather than decrease it. Telling kids to use contraception safely is effectively telling them to have sex; and since statistically speaking even kids who get sex ed generally don’t use contraception very well (and most methods have a failure rate) more kids having sex with contraception will in fact end up in more unexpected pregnancies, and thus in all probability in more abortions.

  • Kurt

    Any chance we could get together here?

    No.

  • Jeremy

    People think they are arguing about abortion, but they are not. They are arguing about man’s place in creation. No two people will agree on everything but abortion, or even a great number of things and abortion. Either God man humans a certain way, or he didn’t.

  • Paul asked, “Any chance we could get together here?”

    Kurt curtly answered, “No.”

    Kurt is right.

    As he wrote: “… some of us who are anti-abortion are looking elsewhere,” Specifically, Kurt and others like him are looking to their alliance with pro-choice politicians, who are themselves allied with pro-abortion interest groups like NARAL and abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. Some think that constellation of alliances will reduce abortions. I and others don’t. There is no “here” on which we could possibly “get together.”

  • Jeremy

    Kurt, out of curiosity, do you believe that abortion is evil in all circumstances, or do you think that abortion could be justified in some cases?

  • radicalcatholicmom

    BA: Can you really imagine that abortion would be made illegal in this country? My post is a pragmatic one. If we cannot make it illegal how can we make it irrelevant? The goal, of course, is to make it illegal with time.

  • radicalcatholicmom

    Mark, maybe we are not supposed to work together. Maybe Conservative pro-lifers will do what they do and pro-life libs will work hard within their circles to make change happen.

  • radicalcatholicmom

    Regarding the Polish example: I find it heartening. I do. Of course, Poland has its rich Catholic traditions deep within its culture. How do we translate that to America? And is it even possible to envision America doing a Poland?

  • David Nickol

    People think they are arguing about abortion, but they are not.

    Jeremy,

    It strikes me that the argument is usually not about abortion or man’s place in creation. The argument is about what the laws about abortion should be. And the meta-argument is what is the purpose of laws in a democratic, pluralistic society.

  • radicalcatholicmom

    “In that regard, one of my objections to RCM’s call for comprehensive sex education focused on contraception is that I think it would increase the need for abortion rather than decrease it. Telling kids to use contraception safely is effectively telling them to have sex; and since statistically speaking even kids who get sex ed generally don’t use contraception very well (and most methods have a failure rate) more kids having sex with contraception will in fact end up in more unexpected pregnancies, and thus in all probability in more abortions.”

    First, I pointed out that Western European countries all share multiple things in common, including comprehensive sex ed and social safety nets.
    Now, I am asking how America can decrease its rates to those of Western Europe? If what you say is true, then why are European pregnancy rates so low? It doesn’t make sense if more pregnancies will happen if they are educated on how to prevent those pregnancies. I also point out the inherent problem with going through the sex ed route. No babies occur period in Western Europe. But if we have choices at least babies are not being killed in the process.

  • jeremy

    Dave, couldn’t disagree with you more. Most people aren’t arguing about the degree of restriction. Most of the argument is really about whether abortion should be allowed in most cases, or disallowed entirely. I have never heard anyone seriously arguing about the purpose of law except as part of an argument for not criminalizing abortion.
    The reason why we never seem to get to an agreement is because the two parties cannot agree on some decremental concepts that their beliefs on the rightness or wrongness of abortion are based on. Essentially, man’s place in creation.

  • David Nickol

    I am asking this not rhetorically, but because I don’t know. The talk always seems to be about Roe v Wade being overturned, but is it possibly more likely, if somehow things shift in a more conservative direction, that Roe will not be completely overturned but will be narrowed somehow so that there can be more restrictions on abortion, but that there will still exist some constitutional protection?

    Also, what happens when medical science changes “viability”? If an artificial womb is created, viability will cease to be a meaningful concept, since any infant, no matter how early in pregnancy, could be saved.

  • jeremy

    decremental = fundamental after a poor click on a spell checker.

  • David Nickol

    Dave, couldn’t disagree with you more. Most people aren’t arguing about the degree of restriction. Most of the argument is really about whether abortion should be allowed in most cases, or disallowed entirely.

    Jeremy,

    We are indeed in disagreement. It is the argument of Zippy and many others (including the American bishops) that abortion must be outlawed, and that this is the case whether or not the number of abortions would decrease or even possibly increase. Abortion must be criminalized because the Church teaches that abortion must be against the law. Period.

    I think many in the pro-life movement oppose something like the 95/10 Initiative not primarily because they are skeptical about the possibility of reducing abortion by means other than criminalization (although they may very well be) but because they feel it is a distraction, because the highest priority must be placed on criminalization no matter what.

  • Policraticus

    liberal pro-lifers seem to spend their energy on criticizing conservative pro-lifers.

    Actually, I have encountered far more of those whom I suppose you’d classify as “liberal pro-lifers” volunteering at the crisis pregnancy clinics and doing sidewalk counseling at abortion mills. I don’t say this from any ideological view, but in my experience I have encountered more “conservative pro-lifers” at expensive pro-life dinners and the March for Life than I have actually working for the movement where it counts. I’ve met and worked with both “conservative” and “liberal” pro-lifers, but I’ve find that it is the exception rather than the rule that the former actually get out there and work to reduce abortions (and I’m talking about laity). But that’s just my experience beyond merely talking pro-life.

  • blackadderiv

    Can you really imagine that abortion would be made illegal in this country? My post is a pragmatic one. If we cannot make it illegal how can we make it irrelevant?

    With respect, RCM, if that was the point of your post, you wouldn’t have taken issue with the assumption that making abortion illegal reduces it’s incidence.

    And yes, I can imagine abortion being made illegal in this country. It would have to happen in stages. If Roe fell, some states would make abortion completely illegal and most would make it more restrictive than it is now. This alone would do a lot to reduce the number of abortions and it would also make it easier to win people to the pro-life cause and pass further restrictions down the line.

  • David Nickol

    And is it even possible to envision America doing a Poland?

    Where, besides Poland, has abortion been freely available and then greatly restricted? I suppose it is possible for something unique to happen in the United States, but it seems to me the trend in all Western democracies (except Poland) has been toward ever fewer restrictions on abortion. Is it really possible to imagine the United States doing a 180-degree turn?

    I would be interesting for someone to write a novel attempting to plausibly depict the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v Wade.

  • I beg your pardon for the meanderings in the post.

    “Paul, liberal pro-lifers are passionately against abortion for themselves and others as long as they don’t have to vote pro-life.”

    There is no such thing as voting “pro-life”, voting Republican (or Democrat) certainly isn’t. Of course, if there wasn’t the ‘winner take all’ voting system, smaller parties could actually be represented in Congress, whether green, libertarian, anti-abortion etc. Of course, one can still go for the ‘lesser evil” (which is the same as ‘the better choice’), but to make it out to be an obligation to vote Republican is silly.

    “Pro-life” is a euphemism, a smokescreen like “Pro-choice”. With many “pro-lifers”, the life of the mother does not matter. “A woman’s right to choose” is apparently ashamed to add a noun at the end, resulting in asking oneself whether the choice is between Burberry and Lacoste. “Pro-family” really means “anti-gay-rights” and so forth.

    Anti-abortion people who vote Republican holding up hope for big changes remind me a bit of the song “I Cover the Waterfront” (Or, for that matter, “Someday My Prince Will Come”. Or, having an abusive spouse and telling oneself that he’ll change and won’t beat you when he comes home)

    Here am I
    Patiently waiting
    Hoping and longing
    Oh how i yearn
    Where are you
    Have you thought back time
    Will you remember
    Will you return

    As far as making abortion illegal is concerned – It will never and should never be completely illegal There will never be a majority that would not allow exceptions for life of the mother, rape and incest, ectopic pregnancy, fetus without a brain and so forth. This country is simply unable to go for a measured approach (Austria, Germany and others: no punishment during first trimester, afterward only for serious medical reasons), it’s all or nothing, thanks to Roe v. Wade. It makes both parties adopt a radical stance, at least they’re putting on appearances to placate interest groups. Otherwise, they certainly would not care.

    This results in comical stances such as calling Bush ‘pro-life’ – again a uniquely American position. If you’re already born, you can go diddle yourself. Banks get the bailout, people lose their houses. I guess the ‘colleterally damaged” in Iraq (if they’re still alive) don’t quite view Bush as ‘pro-life’. Some of the troops – and their families – (support the troops ! …. by sending them into harm’s way for no good reason…question it and you’re unpatriotic) may have realized the pointlessness of it, Well, those who still are around to ponder anything.

    Of course, having been drilled into dutyhonorcountrydutyhonorcountrythefewtheproudanarmyofoneyoutalkingtomemaggot
    they are less likely to see that ancient “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” for the propaganda it is. (It can be justified when attacked of course, but it certainly is never sweet.)

    They are prepared from childhood on. Based on a foundation of a daily(!) Pledge of Allegiance – which is definitely asking for too much reassurance – why so insecure ? Not to mention that equality didn’t make it into it but God got smuggled in by the Knights of Columbus. For that matter, why do people fly an American flag at home ? Do they have to remind themselves what country they live in ? Sure, it’s fun to wear stars & stripes on the Fourth of July, but hoisting it daily ? )

    Country becomes synonymous with whatever the “Commander in Chief” (HAIL to the chief ! …. sounds a bit too German for my taste) decides people should die for. In addition, the notion that we can’t stop now because otherwise all those Americans have died in vain is both understandable coming from troops and their families and insidious – as it gives more people to, uh, “not have died in vain”. It tries to command lockstep from the people, with the sword of being “Unamerican” hung, Damocles-like, over their heads.

    Doing the Mexico City thing is like a first pitch for presidents of respective parties, with basically no consequence. A last minute crumb for the ‘pro-lifers’ to allow pharmacists to be horrified at the prospect of handing someone else the pill (are condoms included, too).

    Thom said: “Smoking marijuana is illegal, too.”

    Legalize it, mon. Ridiculous. You can coma-drink and smoke like a chimney, but ganja is punished. I hear that here in NorCal they have the sweetest bud (in which, unlike cigarettes, cancer doesn’t lurk). Unfortunately I cannot judge it because I don’t want to go to jail. In moderation, weed’s quite a helpful herb (unless one goes on junk food binges). Heck, the religious right, NARAL, Islamists etc. should be forced to smoke weed 😛 The amount of people locked up for weed – and for long sentences in some of the “red states” – in this country is enormous – the percentage of the population that is in prison is higher than in any other Western country, and pretty much every other one, too. Not to mention the revolving door of prisons – people with serious mental illnesses are locked up, released, re-offend on some minor thing, go back in, and that goes on ad infinitum.

    Everything that people want, they will get. The important thing is whether one handles it wisely or in moralistic manner. Prohibition pretty much created the Mafia (and the Kennedy Clan). Making drugs illegal (a rather fiendish campaign against Marijuana, based in economic interests. Good old George Washington grew it) created drug cartels – and ever more ruthless criminals, gangs from godforsaken countries running their bloody business here. Prostitution being illegal opens all kinds of abysmal doors, and it still won’t go away (In some European countries, prostitutes register with the city and go in for STD tests every two weeks to get a permit). Banning abortion simply creates abortion tourism to more liberal states like California or New York. As I said, a complete ban is never going to fly anyway.

    Roe v Wade should be overturned, so simple laws can be enacted, like in every other country I can think of. It’s pretty much the ostinato Leitmotiv (that is how it spells) in American politics. People on both sides sit on their high one-trick-pony and pontificate. The hysteria that erupts come election time and every time a Supreme Court Justice is nominated focuses almost entirely on abortion, squeaky wheel and all. Then the conservatives serve up some candidate with hardly a track record who wiggles his way out of answering questions in a straightforward manner. It is of course highly inappropriate for a justice to base his opinion on Roe v Wade on his personal beliefs. The constitutionality – in a perfect world – should be the sole criterion. The Right then calls its judges “strict constructionists” and refers to the Left’s judges as “legislating from the bench”. Of course that’s BS. All it means “I like this judge” or “I don’t like this judge”, plus some actual issues, like when liberal judges discover something in a ‘penumbra’ (‘almost a shadow), probably pulled out of their rears – after all, the sun don’t shine there.

    The reasons for abortions are multi-faceted – poverty, too lazy or stupid to use contraception (or opposed to it and then getting knocked up), inconvenience, health, underclass culture. What the government can do is fairly limited, well other than bad things, of course, such as facilitating ‘inner cities’ going to pot through misguided policies. “War on Poverty” – the whole war theme is recurring and it never works. Gore Vidal’s term “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace” seems rather fitting for the various “war on”s in this country, and they’re about as successful as the Iraq War. I’d rather leave my heart in San Francisco than my limbs in Iraq. No SIRYESSIR for me, thanks.

    Granted, abortion is never something to cheer for. Regulations, legislation like in Europe should be possible. Much like the despicable Prop. 8, it should be purged from the respective constitutions. My lay mind thinks that Lawrence v. Texas already covers the privacy aspect. Unlike, say, Dred Scott, Prop. 8 and, on the other side, Brown v. Board of Education and various amendments, Roe does not deal with equality.

    I’ll stop my meandering with a song that wouldn’t have been right in World War II’s case (IMHO), but, after almost 6 years, applies to Iraq. That kind of pro-life work is a lot harder than expressing opposition to abortion.

    If you love this land of the free
    Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
    Bring them back from overseas
    Bring ’em home, bring ’em home

    It will make the politicians sad, I know
    Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
    They wanna tangle with their foe
    Bring ’em home, bring ’em home

    They wanna test their grand theories
    Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
    With the blood of you and me
    Bring ’em home, bring ’em home

    Now we’ll give no more brave young lives
    Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
    For the gleam in someone’s eyes (and, in Bush’s case, a tear)
    Bring ’em home, bring ’em home

  • Jessie

    We are indeed in disagreement. It is the argument of Zippy and many others (including the American bishops) that abortion must be outlawed, and that this is the case whether or not the number of abortions would decrease or even possibly increase. Abortion must be criminalized because the Church teaches that abortion must be against the law. Period.

    Which is precisely my point. If you believe that abortion is in any and all cases wrong, you will work to outlaw it completely. If you think that there may be some circumstances that justify abortion, you will work to constrain the abortions that happen to the set of circumstances where abortion is justified.

    My point is that what leads someone to believe that abortion is in all cases wrong, or that abortion is ok in some cases is based on a more fundamental belief about mankind’s place in God’s creation.

  • kurt

    Kurt, out of curiosity, do you believe that abortion is evil in all circumstances, or do you think that abortion could be justified in some cases?

    I believe abortion is always objectively wrong.

    Let me also clarify, I am not a “liberal pro-lifer” as defined above. i.e — someone who has a preference for voluntary rather than legal means to reduce abortions. I’ll take the title centerist anti-abortion. I support legislation to make abortion illegal. I simply find the conservative pro-life movement something I can no longer colaborate with.

  • Thanks for the tip.

    You’re quite welcome, because I think that it’s applicable in this discussion.

  • radicalcatholicmom wrote: Mark, maybe we are not supposed to work together. Maybe Conservative pro-lifers will do what they do and pro-life libs will work hard within their circles to make change happen.

    I couldn’t agree more. As I said, I agree with Kurt. There is no “here” on which we can “come together.” Kurt himself has declared that he is no longer a member of the pro-life movement. That’s fine. I wish him well, along with all those who honestly believe that making common purpose with pro-choice politicians and their allies will reduce the number of abortions. I think they’re wrong but I hope they’re right.

  • While I wholeheartedly advocate outlawing abortion, I find that there are at least two major underlying problems that affect political and legal responses to abortion, and given the importance of those responses, I think the pro-life movement absolutely has to address them. First, there is the political situation that we are somewhat ruled not by law, but by the will of rulers. The rule of law has been all too often undermined in our country’s history, and when the rule of law is undermined, all particular laws are undermined. Second, there is the cultural situation that we have an effective pro-choice movement operating in the country, meaning that any political victories won by the pro-life movement remain fragile and fleeting.

  • David Nickol

    Which is precisely my point. If you believe that abortion is in any and all cases wrong, you will work to outlaw it completely.

    Jessie,

    There are many things the Church teaches to be wrong in all cases, but we certainly don’t seek to outlaw them all.

  • Blackadder: I suppose I should let Radical Catholic Mom defend herself since she is active here. Nonetheless, I think you have misread her post. I read her as making the point that not all the variation in abortion rates between countries can be plausibly attributed to differences in those countries’ laws. She never made the manifestly implausible claim that laws restricting abortion have no effect on the incidence of abortion. It seems to me that there is no real need to refute that claim because it is transparently false; someone making it is almost certainly insincere.

    Zippy: I could not disagree more strongly with the following: “The thing is, though, that pro-abortion politicians are, as a matter of dispassionate fact, blood-thirsty, vampiric, and infant-slaughtering. It is all well and good to make prudential judgments given a certain base of facts. But it is absolutely necessary, as prerequisite to making such prudential judgments, to fully understand and acknowledge that base of facts prior to making any prudential judgments.”

    Certainly pro-life liberals should not make excuses for pro-choice politicians even when we support them because of our agreement with them on other issues. In some cases pro-life liberals have done just that. For example, Doug Kmiec sometimes seemed to argue that Obama was actually better than McCain on the issue of abortion itself, which is crazy. The argument for voting for Obama was just that he was the better candidate taking into consideration all of the issues not just abortion, and that the Republicans aren’t all the great on abortion anyway.

    Calling pro-choicers “blood-thirsty, vampiric, and infant-slaughtering” is stupid. Its counter-productive and false. This kind of rhetoric implies that pro-choicers (1) know full well that abortion is the intentional killing of a human person, and (2) that they support abortion precisely for that reason (that’s the point of calling them “bloodthirsty”, no?). But in fact most people who support abortion don’t think that fetuses are persons; instead, they think they are some sort of person-in-the-making. Their wrong about that, but they aren’t “blood thirsty.” Furthermore, women get abortions largely to secure genuine goods. For example, they get them so that they can finish their education, so that they can work and succeed in a career, because they are not married, etc. Education, career, and marriage: nothing in the pro-life creed requires us to deny that these are genuine goods; its just that as worthwhile as these are as genuine goods, they do not justify the deliberate killing of another human person. In fact, no one would say otherwise were some the person being killed were anyone other than an unborn fetus.

    This kind of rhetoric needlessly makes pro-lifers look extreme and potentially violent. It also plays right into the hands of pro-choicers who want to portray pro-lifers as hostile or dismissive to equality and empowerment for women. Its not necessary to use this kind of rhetoric to tell the truth about abortion. We can say without any dissembling that abortion is the killing of a human person without calling anyone a vampire or accusing them of being blood thirsty.

  • blackadderiv

    Where, besides Poland, has abortion been freely available and then greatly restricted?

    The United States.

  • kurt

    Mark,

    Thank you for the good wishes.

    It was also kind of you to extend good wishes to those who beleive making common purpose with pro-choice politicans and their allies will reduce the number of abortions. I, of course, am not part of that community. I would like to see a legal prohibition on abortion, a position which those who are pro-choice will not concur with. My departure from the Pro-Life Movement is best explained by Christopher Gant’s response to Zippy above. Christopher may (or may not) think his view still has a place in the Pro-Life Movement. I do not. The Zippies have won, and the Movement is theirs. Some dissenters may still mill around, but they are just enablers of the Zippies.

  • Calling pro-choicers “blood-thirsty, vampiric, and infant-slaughtering” is stupid. Its counter-productive and false.

    I’ll note that it was another commenter who suggested those words.

    The suggestion, though, is not about what kind of public rhetoric pro-lifers ought to use. The suggestion is that, prior to any judgments, we need to admit the truth to ourselves. And the truth is that pro-choice politicians are, objectively, blood-thirsty, vampiric, and infant-slaughtering. What they think in their own minds is irrelevant: their acts are objectively blood-thirsty, vampiric, and infant-slaughtering. If one is to make a good prudential judgment about making common cause with a politician, one must first accept the full truth about the politician with which one makes common cause. Sugar coat it to yourself and you are just telling yourself lies. The acts of pro-choice politicians are vile, despicable, blood-thirsty, heinous, genocidal … I could go on. This is just the truth.

    The Zippies have won, and the Movement is theirs. Some dissenters may still mill around, but they are just enablers of the Zippies.

    That is a rather ironic statement, which could only be made out of ignorance of my actual positions and activities. If you browse the recent archives of my blog, not to mention the recent archives of Jimmy Akin.org and other venues, for example, you’ll see enormous controversy over (1) my opposition to voting for John McCain and (2) my criticism of dishonesty in how the pro-life movement has marketed itself, among other things.

  • Kurt,

    I, of course, do not agree with Zippy that pro-choice politicians are “bloodthirsty, vampiric and infant slaughtering.” I know several pro-choice politicians and they are, at worst, indifferent to the unborn. I do agree with Christopher Gant that such needlessly inflamatory rhetoric only makes those in the pro-life movement look ridiculous.

    But the rhetoric of pro-lifers, no matter how overheated, can’t be compared to the flesh-and-blood reality of abortion. And so it mystifies me how someone who recognizes that awful reality can walk away from a movement aimed at ending it. And it mystifies me further how that same person can so warmly embrace those who are determined to not only preserve the practice of abortion, but extend it, without regard to their commendable positions on other issues. I write this without judgment. I am genuinely, profoundly confused and saddened by the whole thing.

    But I am also finished questioning motives and impugning characters. There has been enough of that on every side.

  • Zippy, if the words “bloodthirsty, vampiric and infant slaughtering” weren’t yours, I apologize for attributing them to you in my last comment.

  • Again, though, the prior issue is not whether it makes good rhetoric or looks ridiculous to say that the acts of pro-choice politicians are bloodthirsty, vampiric, and infant-slaughtering. People are confusing image with substance.

    The prior issue is whether it is true (it is), and whether or not liberal Catholics can admit this truth to themselves about the politicians with whom they make common cause. If liberal Catholics cannot admit this truth to themselves, then they will be literally incapable of making good prudential judgments about such collaborations.

  • Mark:

    Indeed I did not introduce those words into the discussion. I think a commenter attributed those words to pro-lifers generally as a polemical tactic. Rather than fighting the polemic, I chose to point out that the shoe is really on the other foot: can liberal pro-lifers admit to themselves that the acts of the pro-choice politicians with whom they collaborate are in fact bloodthirsty, vampiric, and infant-slaughtering? The words frankly don’t do justice to the real brutality of abortion. They were introduced into the discussion by a presumably liberal Catholic commentator as a supposedly discrediting polemic.

    But I think that very introduction, that rhetorical tactic, reveals that liberal Catholics are uncomfortable facing the full, unadulterated truth about their collaborations. And if they are uncomfortable facing the full unadulterated truth about their collaborations, then it is not possible for their collaborations to rest on objectively sound prudential judgments.

  • M.Z. Forrest

    It is certainly possible for someone to be an ass and against abortion, and being the latter doesn’t excuse the former. It is also possible to be a nihilistic blowhard.

  • David Nickol

    What possible hope is there for Vox Nova contributors and commenters to agree on abortion when we can’t even agree on the existence of Santa Claus? (And I am saying that in all seriousness.)

  • I notice that the banner of this weblog says: “Catholic perspectives on culture, society and politics”. Also I notice that there is a call from some people here for increased sex education with an greater availability of artificial contraceptives.

    I fail to see the Catholic perspective on this one. Help me out, someone.

  • kurt

    Mark,

    It is not a matter of overheated rhetoric. It is a matter of fundemental doctrines of the Pro-Life movement concerning the nature of those persons who support abortion rights or who oppose abortion rights but on one or more occassions will support a candidate they disagree with regarding abortion.

    I do not warmly embrace the pro-choice movement. I stand outside both the abortion rights movement and the Pro-Life Movement. And I find I have more and more company as the Pro-Life Movement becomes (as some wish for the Church) “smaller and more orthodox. “

  • Kurt,

    I’m not really sure if you actually want your points addressed, or if you’re holding a sort of extended pity party with all your comments about how you can’t call yourself pro-life anymore because pro-lifers are too mean. (Is seeing your guy win really such a phyrric victory that all you can do now is mope?) But I’ll give it a shot on the off chance.

    First off, Zippy can hardly be accused of being the majority of anything. One of the charming and annoying things about him is that he is very much his own creature. You may think he exemplifies certain traits which annoy you about other self-identified pro-lifers, but you can hardly say that his sort runs the movement.

    Secondly, for all that Zippy’s point in embracing your “blood thirty, vampiric, infant slaughtering politicians” terminology may be a bit abbrasive to you, I think you’re missing his actual point, which seems to be the (correct) observation that no matter what pro-choice politicians may themselves think about their positions (and I do not doubt that most of them are seemingly quite nice people who simply don’t care much about the issue or if they have thought about the issue have come to the firm conclusion that unborn humans are not “persons”) their actions are pretty undeniably from a Catholic point of view “blood thirty, vampiric, infant slaughtering”.

    Very few people in the world actually think that they are themselves bad people, or are doing things that are wrong. I’m sure that most agents using torture on terrorist detainees really did think they were doing the best possible thing for their country. And many slave owners thought they were actually doing something that was good for blacks in the long run. Many segregationists doubtless that it was better for races to remain apart. Even serial killers often imagine that they are somehow doing something important or right.

    When you get angry about the sort of terminology which you accuse pro-lifers of using (and which Zippy gamely pointed out the truth of) you seem to exhibit an inability to separate action from intention. It’s hardly surprising as this is one of the most common moral mistakes of American culture. We constantly talk about “good people” and “bad people” as if these were categories which existed, rather than people simply being people — who at times do bad things and at times do good.

    That someone takes actions which are “blood thirsty and vampiric” does not mean that said person _intends_ to be wicked and blood thirsty. But that they don’t intend to do wrong doesn’t reduce the wrongness of what they endorse. That’s the balance that anyone trying to right a moral evil must achieve: emphasizing the moral evil while not falling into the error of imagining that everyone who participates in that evil does so with intent to be evil. I don’t doubt that some pro-lifers slip over in the other direction and do indeed allow themselves to imagine that all pro-choicers mean to be evil. But the fact that some pro-lifers make that error does not eliminate the fact that they are right about the evil which the pro-choice agenda is — though not about the evil intent of those who implement it.

  • Kurt

    DC —

    I have no more interest in being part of the Pro-Life Movement as you claim it to be as I do the Pro-Life Movement Zippy claims it to be. You differ in nuances but both are of the “smaller and more orthodox” school.

  • Jeremy

    There are many things the Church teaches to be wrong in all cases, but we certainly don’t seek to outlaw them all.

    People will want to outlaw what they consider to be true sins. What people consider to be peccadilloes will be merely discouraged. Whether we consider something to be a grave sin or mere misstep depends a large part on our understanding of ourselves and God.

  • grega

    Great comment Gerald,
    certainly you changed –
    lets hope the Obama Presidency profoundly changes the status quo somewhat along the lines you draw.
    Certainly just the example Obama sets with his conduct and the way he puts his young family in the center of his life provides in my view allready more ‘pro life’
    credentials for the nation to observe than the cynical underachieving Bush type Republicans could muster in 8 years.

    Abortion has been around from the beginning of times and chances are will be around until the end of the days. I think radicalmom expressed a reasonable compromize between the fractions best –
    and frankly this is how our society is set up we all say our parts and fight as hard to convince one another – but in the end we accept the common denominator.

    You guys can be assured if a majority of americans truly would like Abortion to be illegal – IT WOULD BE ILLEGAL –

    This things do not fall out of the sky –
    Humankinds anchient desire to decouple procreation from sexual pleasure certainly is a significant puzzlepiece in the mix.
    Most catholics -despite request to the contrary – certainly ‘decouple’ most of the time.
    Despite all the pious handwringing from clerics that proudly look back on 1000 year of more or less chastity.

  • Zippy and Darwin Catholic: To accuse someone of being “bloodthirsty” is not to make a claim about the objective nature of their actions; rather, it is to make a claim about their state of mind. No one is minimizing the fact that abortion is the killing of a human person. The objection is that it is absurd to say that women who abort do so because they have a “bloodthirsty” state of mind.

    That I and other pro-life liberals object to stringing together a bunch of randomly chosen epithets like “bloodthirsty”, “vampiric”, or “genocidal” doesn’t prove that we aren’t willing to tell the truth about what abortion is.

  • Kurt,

    There is nothing particularly intellectual about refusing to be a part of orthodoxies. Your ‘I’m too good for the pro-life movement,’ shtick is neither original nor substantive. Any hack can do the beyond-ist bit, “I used to be x, but then I realized that such a label did not do justice to the subtlety and originality of my intellect.” It is self-congratulation on the cheap. If you have a substantive disagreement with extending legal protection to unborn human life, please feel free to share it. But going on and on about how some pro-lifers say mean things and it offends you so, is a mark of either naivete (did you know that there are people on all sides of every issue that say mean things?) or intellectual unseriousness.

  • I agree with Christopher that adjectives such as ‘bloodthirsty’ or ‘vampiric’ suggest a subjective desire to kill for the sake of killing. I would not assign such motives to the vast majority of pro-choicers.

  • To accuse someone of being “bloodthirsty” is not to make a claim about the objective nature of their actions; rather, it is to make a claim about their state of mind.

    Well, again I remind you that those words were introduced into the discussion by a liberal pro-lifer for polemical purposes, not by me or Darwin. But I disagree with this notion that it necessarily involves claims about state of mind. I think it is possible and indeed perfectly reasonable to characterize what was taking place at Auschwitz as “bloodthirsty”, independent of protestations about what was going on in various peoples’ minds, and despite the fact that the number murdered at Auschwitz and the like is far smaller than the number murdered in the abortion holocaust.

  • Joseph

    Regarding the Polish example: I find it heartening. I do. Of course, Poland has its rich Catholic traditions deep within its culture. How do we translate that to America? And is it even possible to envision America doing a Poland?

    RCM,

    We don’t. My wife and I will hopefully be packing up to move home to Ireland in 2009. As bad as Europe has eroded into a secular atheist society, they still have the foundation of authentic true Christian culture there. There is something underneath that they will eventually find again once they hit the bottom. The US was built on Protestantism, Deism, and Freemasonry. It’s tradition has always been pliable and blows around every which way the wind blows. There is no rock bottom to hit, it will continue to change. That is why Poland, however infected with modernism it becomes, it will always have Our Lady of Czestochowa protecting her. There is something indestructible that lies underneath. I think it’d be better to be there as society crumbles than here.

  • It’s certainly not a set of adjectives that I’d string together myself. However I’m not sure that saying actions are bloodthirsty necessarily speaks to state of mind — though it certainly could. To take the string of adjectives literally: must one necessarily imagine a vampire to think that he’s doing wrong by preying upon human beings, or is it simply something a vampire does in the same way that a lion preys on antelope? In our popular mythology we often treat predators as evil creatures, but they’re not seeking to do evil, they’re just persuing a way of life which involves feasting on other animals.

    Similarly, I think it would be a mistake to say that pro-abortion politicians necessarily have any intention of being cruel or bloodthirsty. To their minds, the unborn are not creatures of moral significance, and so they are simply grist for the cultural mill which makes certain choices and lifestyles possible.

    I certainly would not choose to use the kind of terminology which Kurt seems to think is at the heart of the pro-life movement — but I don’t necessarily think that the terminology is inaccurate if understood correctly. I do, however, think that Kurt’s description of the pro-life movement is in accurate.

  • Joseph

    I find Kurt rather curt.

  • “I do, however, think that Kurt’s description of the pro-life movement is in accurate.”

    Agreed. As I said, I think it is a cheap caricature of the type people use to persuade themselves (or others) that they are somehow beyond popular controversies. Any political label one adopts is inevitably shared by some people who are uncharitable, unintelligent, or some combination of both. And, of course, no one ever went broke in either party (see, e.g., Coulter, Moore) by describing the opposing party as dominated by such people. But being an adult means accepting the labels that accompany various positions; in this case, if a person supports legislation to protect unborn life, then they are pro-life, empty rhetoric about ‘narrowness’ and ‘orthodoxies’ aside. If not, then probably not.

  • David Nickol

    People will want to outlaw what they consider to be true sins. What people consider to be peccadilloes will be merely discouraged.

    Jeremy,

    Taking the debate back to square one, I would point out that masturbation, birth control, extramarital sex, breaking the seal of confession, desecrating the Eucharist, remarriage after divorce, making (and selling, buying, and watching) “adult” films, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, vasectomy, tubal ligation, and many other things are considered by the Catholic Church to be grave sins.

  • radicalcatholicmom

    “Where, besides Poland, has abortion been freely available and then greatly restricted?

    The United States.”

    I find this comparison absolutely absurd, BA. You cannot compare American then to the situation of America now.

    My question is not dealing with the ideal in America. The ideal is that everyone waits to have sex until Marriage. That once married they practice Church teaching on family planning. Just waiting to save sex for marriage would kill the abortion rate since 80-90% of all abortions are on unmarried pregnant women.

    But I cannot see that happening in the given circumstances and the question that Catholics have to ask are what do we do to curtail the chaos that happens when people choose to disobey God’s Law? To me, using the Double Dutch model of contraception in secular society is a lot more logical then making those babies die. Now, I have been asking does the no contraception rule apply to unmarried folks. People have told me that I am asking the wrong questions, but to me it seems rather obvious.

    I also do not envision due to 35 years of chances that abortion will be made illegal any time soon regardless of who is in office. Again, the Catholic reader response has been
    1)RCM is rejecting Church teaching on contraception (I am still not sure if this correct. If it is, and I am in an email discussion with some Dominicans, then I will publicly correct myself on this) But to me, Catholics are obligated to follow the Church’s teachings, does this mean non-Catholics are also obligated especially when they are already choosing sex outside of marriage? Are their kids obligated to suffer from their parents’ sins either by being killed by abortion because contraception is not allowed or by being raised in single parent household)
    2)RCM doesn’t think abortion should be illegal (clearly false). I do worry that making abortion illegal in America will not necessarily mean a major drop in abortion rates which defeats the law.

    BA: The Irish model, do you include the numbers of Irish who travel abroad for abortions?

  • RCM,

    In regards to your question on whether contraception is okay for unmarried people, I think one or two people have said this already but:

    The Church teaches that sex has both a unitive and a procreative meaning. Contraception is wrong because it violates the procreative meaning of sex. Sex outside of marriage is wrong because it violates the unitive meaning of sex. Thus, it would seem pretty clear that contracepted extra-marital sex is even worse than natural extra-marital sex.

    Further, at a basic cultural level, it seems to me you’re going to have a much harder time expecting even Catholics to avoid contraception after marriage if you’re busy telling everyone (including Catholic kids in public school) that it’s just peachy to have sex before marriage so long as they use both condoms and the Pill. Having Catholics actively push this approach would destroy any ability at all of Catholics to provide a model for what marriage ought to be to the culture as a whole.

    Also, addressing your Double Dutch fascination (goodness, back when I was a teen that was a kind of jump rope!): I think it’s important to acknowledge the cultural differences between the US and Europe. You have already done this in some cases: arguing that the Irish and Polish examples are not helpful in charting a course for the US. (A side note: yes the figures that BA cites include the Irish who travel abroad for abortions — including travel their rate is around 30% of the British rate.)

    In the US, the trend for the last 30 years has been that the young and the poor (and especially the young poor) use contraception very poorly. If you look at Guttmacher’s data on birth control effectiveness, you’ll find that being young and being poor each decrease the effectiveness of the common methods of birth control by about 60%. Stack the two on top of each other and a young, poor woman living with her boyfriend has a pretty high chance of getting pregnant despite using birth control. This persists despite an awful lot of birth control focused sex education over the last thirty years.

    Now as you point out, Europe seems to have this problem much less. Various things could effect this. One is that abortion is harder to get in Europe, even though it’s legal. Another is that many of the poorest in Europe are Muslim immigrants — who at times have the bad habits of killing their daughters for having premarital sex. That their poorest classes have sex less than our poorest classes may be a major factor.

    Or it may be some other cultural factor which simply makes Americans more freewheeling and careless in their sexuality than Europeans. Whatever it is, I’m unsure why you are convinced that we could change American culture to make all Americans act like Europeans in their use of birth control, but that we couldn’t change American culture in making abortion less available or sex before marriage less prevalent.

    If the change is going to be difficult and hard to achieve either way, why should we as Catholics put all our work into something we think is wrong and socially destructive anyway?

  • Jeremy

    Dave<
    You keep talking about the church hierarchy, I am talking about the people in general, regardless of religious affiliation.

    But to continue to restate my previous point in a more general form :
    If person A believes that action X is always bad, and person B believes that action X is not always bad (or even not bad), it is usually pointless to argue whether X is or is not bad because usually there is a real disagreement not about X, but about the beliefs that leads person A to believe that action X is always bad, and the beliefs that lead person B to believe action X is not bad.

    Ergo, it is pointless to argue whether action X is or is not bad, but the real discussion should lead backwards to WHY action X is or is not bad.

  • blackadderiv

    Rcm,

    The United States today may not be comparable to the United States of the 19th century, but then it really isn’t comparable to much of Western Europe either. Abortion on demand was created and maintained in the U.S. via judicial decree. The same cannot be said of Europe (I would also note that legalized abortion in Europe has only been around for less than 40 years, so to suggest this shows that once a country liberalizes its abortion laws there’s no going back is somewhat shortsighted).

  • blackadderiv

    The Irish model, do you include the numbers of Irish who travel abroad for abortions?

    Yes.

  • RCM wrote:
    Now, I am asking how America can decrease its rates to those of Western Europe?

    Well, it seems to me that the first thing would be to overturn Roe v. Wade, so that abortion is no longer called a “right,” and so that there can be at least minimal restrictions place on abortion here, as they are in Europe.

    Unfortunately, you endorsed a presidential candidate implacably opposed to such an idea, and you seem to hold in disdain Republicans who want to overturn Roe without outlawing abortion nationally.

    Your stated goals are in conflict with your rhetoric, and also your on-line actions. Which is why is question your sincerity when you state your goals.

  • “You guys can be assured if a majority of americans truly would like Abortion to be illegal – IT WOULD BE ILLEGAL”

    Indeed, if even all Catholic Democrats wanted abortion to be illegal, it would be illegal.

  • Chris Sullivan

    Cathleen Kaveny has some interesting papers on abortion law, including one presenting a Thomistic argument that harsh criminal penalties for early term abortions may be counter-productive.

    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=2514

    The Polish case is interesting as I understand there are no legal penalties for abortions in Poland

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Poland

    I suspect that the Polish law may not have so much reduced abortions as is sometimes claimed, but merely encouraged women to cross the border to obtain them, or to obtain them underground.

    God Bless

  • Chris Sullivan

    Radical Catholic Mum,

    Love the moniker !

    The New Zealand Catholic Bishops teach that the teaching against contraception does not apply outside marriage or when the intent is disease prevention :-

    It is a different matter when it is intercourse between people who do not owe each other the complete gift of themselves because they are not married. It is also a different matter when the purpose of using a protective device is to prevent the transmission of disease, not to prevent conception, which is then a side-effect.

    http://www.catholic.org.nz/statements/0802marriage.php

    This is consistent with the papal encyclicals on the matter.

    God Bless

  • blackadderiv

    The Polish case is interesting as I understand there are no legal penalties for abortions in Poland

    I think you mean there are no legal penalties for the mother. If you mean that there are no legal penalties for the doctor, then the link you provide doesn’t support the claim.

    Out of curiosity, in what countries are there legal penalties for women who have abortions? I know the Wiki page says this is unusual, but no source is provided, and my impression was that it was punishing the woman that was unusual.

  • Chris Sullivan

    blackadderiv,

    Yes you are right.

    The Polish law imposes penalties of 2 years prison for the doctor.

    http://www.federa.org.pl/english/report96/rap96_1.htm

    God Bless

  • Radical Catholic Mom (I’ve always liked you best among the bloggers here) – leaving aside Europe’s flaws – there are many interesting facts about Europe in matters sexual and in general

    – teen pregnancies are a fraction of America’s
    – teen abortions are a fraction
    – abortion rates are the highest in formerly Communist countries, esp. Russia
    – absence, in most countries, of dominating sectarian religiosity. Catholic clergy is more liberal,
    not to mention Lutherans
    – regulation of abortion, usually first trimester solution.
    – a more relaxed approach to sexuality
    – low propensity to be gong ho on war
    – much, much lower violent crime rates (mind you, I do own a gun, haven’t turned into a hippie :P)

    If one thinks about which areas and population segments of the USA are the most pro-war, pro-military, anti-gay, “pro-life”, have the most teen pregnancies, worst education, most likely to want illegal aliens deported, the most Republican (a party that could rise again, unless it stays mired in the James Dobson swamp) and so forth, you’ll notice that they are also by far the most religious – in a culture war context, not so much in the “Love thy neighbor” department. This has basically no equivalent in Europe, except maybe Poland. There, antisemitism among the overtly “pious” has apparently returned to pre-WW II levels when Catholicism was deeply mired in it. Even an otherwise admirable Fr. Maximilian Kolbe didn’t fully eschew it. If you remember, the Vatican stepped in with that Catholic radio station.

    One has to mention that the USA has people who are pretty close to European culture, mainly on the coasts. Restaurants that don’t exist 5 million times across the country, for example. Also the least fat people.

    Interestingly, much like the American “Religious Right” counterpart, anti-abortion and pro-death penalty and pro-war sentiments are more common than in other European countries. The anti-Iraq war demonstrations were the biggest in Europe. In general, the military is viewed with suspicion, esp. those who joined voluntarily. This is strongly ingrained in the European Weltanschauung. After the Wehrmacht’s rape of Europe, this is not surprising.

    Very generally speaking, the “Religious Left” pays little attention to abortion and the Right pays little attention to anything else. I’d say that the former shows more concern overall, since they don’t ride a one-trick pony. Their propensity to misguided policies is another matter of course. An unpleasant fellow can have much better solutions than the nicest persons, after all.

    Abortion, teen pregnancy and so forth are less of a problem in Western Europe because the approach to sexuality is less cramped. The USA has the strongest anti-nudity regulations for tv and prudishness is widespread, on the other hand the porn industry (which is basically devoid of any real eroticism, featuring rather plastic people and mullets in unrealistic and distasteful manner) is one of the biggest economic forces.

    In the USA (on network TV) you can’t show a breast being caressed, but it’s ok to show it charred (Bones, CSI etc). In Europe, violence is censored – I remember this from having seen American and British versions of the same US movies. In Austria, there’s boob galore on network tv, beaches and so forth. It doesn’t much have the tinge of “dirty”, “mind in the gutter” etc. Lacking sexual maturity, but not sexual desire, many find themselves on the backseats of cars, unprepared in any which way. (Of course, these are just general observations. Any phenomenon can be found on either continent. It’s a matter of degree).

    With this twisted approach to sexuality common among many in the US, it is not surprising that sex happens – e.g. among those with “chastity pledges” – in a rather impromptu manner. In addition, you might even get the third degree from your parents, esp. when they’re conservative. Of course, that existed in Europe as well, several decades ago. Women pregnant with “bastards” frequently killed themselves. Drowning was popular. The Irish had those Catholic homes for “wayward women” – Madeleine ? Contraception was illegal in Ireland until 30 years ago. By now, Ireland has basically relegated the Catholic church to irrelevance.

    Then you have the abysmal parts of the US, dilapidated rural and urban areas. The “my baby’s daddy” culture also features the highest abortion rates, lacking any concept of stability. Promiscuity and the absence of contraception make for a skyhigh “illegitimacy” (a rather insulting term for the child who isn’t at fault) rate. Esp. black men frequently have offspring with several women – something also found among, not exclusively, among what is commonly referred to as “white trash” – another charming term.

    I do think that there are legitimate reasons for abortion – life of the mother being the strongest -, but the vast majority happens either for selfish reasons or reasons of poverty, lack of family structure etc. Abortion will always be around, but the percentage depends on many factors. Americans have a tendency to overdo everything. Prudishness (sex ed! Good lord!), religious zeal, violence, over-eating, you name it. This of course is once more a general observation, not applying to everyone. For the country that routinely views itself as the “greatest in the world” (with most never having seen anything else except maybe Tijuana), it certainly leads the Western world in awful categories, from murder to drugs to obesity to having the highest rate of people imprisoned, frequently for bad reasons such as weed or locking up severely mentally ill people (ask my wife) who are unable to “walk the straight and narrow”. The same things that are touted and demanded are the ones the country is worst at. (this, given the more recent track record, includes war)

    How do you ameliorate the following “root causes” ? (not counting abortions of convenience)

    – A twisted approach to sexuality, frequently caused by some strands of religion
    – Lack of preparedness, from emotional to more mundane factors like using contraception.
    Sexuality being treated as the big taboo. This necessarily results in stunted development (sex
    abuse priests being just one result). Heck, some people are aghast at the fact that their children
    might hear about the existence of gays.
    – Lack of family structure
    – Poverty paired with a self-defeating “underclass” culture
    – Bad education, caused by a frequently rotten school system and proudly ignorant parents
    (creationists, eg).
    – Holding up standards too high to live up to without discussing any alternatives. What if’s don’t
    get covered. My daughter would NEVER do that. See also Palin, Sarah. This can of course lead to
    depression and other negative results among those who “succumbed”. The parents never talked
    to them about what can happen in the “real world” Instead of avoiding suffering by letting go of
    stunting attachments, guilt lingers on, tainting subsequent actions. This is something rejected
    by the Catholic church, I believe, but scrupulosity still affects many ardently religious people,
    making matters worse, much like an addict who’s fallen off the wagon and goes to pieces
    instead of getting back on. Everything should be approached as what it is, not as what it should
    be according to pre-cooked standards. The strictest, most tight-lipped parents produce, not
    surprisingly, frequently the most ‘overboard’ teenagers. I remember the Catholic school girls
    having the reputation of being the ones one should go to “for a good time”. Questioning
    everything, above all oneself is crucial. Shedding these preconceived notions, cookie cutters is
    important on all levels. One after another, one can let go of centuries of obstacles. Zen there
    were none 🙂

    – Nobody can legislate a healthy approach to oneself and one’s sexuality. A loving, realistic
    upbringing is desirable but cannot be summoned. The least happy are the most likely to hook
    up with people they would never want to marry.

  • radicalcatholicmom

    Paul:”Unfortunately, you endorsed a presidential candidate implacably opposed to such an idea, and you seem to hold in disdain Republicans who want to overturn Roe without outlawing abortion nationally.”

    I have voted the traditional prolife vote my whole voting life until Obama and the abortion rates continued their slow decline from 1980 as they always did regardless of what was going on around us.

    Obama cannot do anything by FIAT unless Congress gives it to him. And if the majority of the country voted for pro-abortion politicians over so called pro-life ones, the pro-life community needs to be asking WHY pro-life politicians are so unpalatable to even many pro-lifers. But then that would take introspection and that might be a little to difficult for people who would rather blame everyone else for their problems.

  • kurt

    Zippy — those words were introduced by Father J, without objection coming from any quarter.

    RCM — Your last two sentences present a strong challenge to the “smaller and more orthodox” Pro-Life Movement. It also leads to another matter. I’m old enough to remember when we changed our terminology from ‘anti-abortion’ to ‘pro-life.’ Yet starting in the last election cycle, candidates are now advised to label themselves “anti-abortion” and not “pro-life.” There is a phenomenon that folks should reflect on.

  • Jessie O.

    RCM, you are wrong that Pres. elect Obama can do nothing by fiat once he is sworn in. He can, and has said he will, fully fund Embryonic Stem cell research and the attendant deaths that will result in as well as overturn the various executive orders now withholding taxpayer funding for abortions. This means, our collective treasure will now go to funding a vast number of deaths and (in the case of UN and USAID to forced abortions). I really am sick of hearing how the President “can’t do anything” vis-a-vis the culture of death in general and abortion/ESCR in particular.

    Dave, et al: Abortion should be outlawed because it is the intentional killing of innocent people. Period.

  • Kurt:

    I haven’t the faintest idea who “Father J” is, nor do I care. In this thread those words were introduced by you. And they are perfectly accurate as descriptors of the actions of pro-choice politicians. The interior workings of the minds of pro-choice politicians is a subject I find completely uninteresting.

  • David Nickol

    BA,

    I don’t have time to document this carefully now, but I am pretty sure that Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Malta all ban abortions totally, and all have prison sentences not just for the abortionists, but for the women who procure the abortions. The Catholic Church in Nicaragua was very influential a couple of years ago in getting the very restrictive abortion laws in Nicaragua changed to a total ban.

  • David Nickol

    Here are the penalties for the only four countries (if counted, Vatican City would be the fifth) the prohibit abortion with no exceptions. They are all Catholic countries. The pro-life Catholics who argue that abortion should be criminalized and the abortionist should be punished but the woman who seeks the abortion should not be are not in line with the four Catholic countries who have banned abortion totally.

    Chile: A woman may face a 3-5 year jail term for ending her pregnancy and slightly less if she did so to preserve her honor.

    El Salvador: Under this Code, a person who performs an abortion with the woman’s consent, or a woman who self-induces or consents to someone else inducing her abortion, can be imprisoned for 10 to life imprisonment.

    Nicaragua: If the woman consented, both she and the person who performed the abortion faced a sentence of one to four years, and if she attempted a self-induced abortion, the term of imprisonment was four to eight years. A person who performed, or attempted to perform, an abortion, and, as a result, caused injury to the pregnant woman would be jailed for four to 10 years, or six to 10 years if it caused her death. [This was the law at the time therapeutic abortions (to save the mother’s life) were permitted. In 2006, even therapeutic abortions were banned, and there was an attempt, which failed, to increase prison time. As best I can tell, then, the prison terms remain the same.]

    Malta: The person performing the abortion is subject to 18 months’ to three years’ imprisonment, as is a woman who performs an abortion on herself or consents to its performance. A physician, surgeon, obstetrician, or apothecary who performs an abortion is subject to 18 months’ to four years’ imprisonment and lifelong prohibition from exercising his or her profession.

  • Kurt

    The President cannot fully fund ESCR by his own authority. All appropriations bills must originate in the House (Constitution, Article I, Section 7). There are no current Executive Orders that withhold taxpayer funds from paying for abortions. Taxapyer financing of elective abortions is prohibited by law.

  • Thus, it would seem pretty clear that contracepted extra-marital sex is even worse than natural extra-marital sex.

    Darwin,

    My then 16 year old daughter once asked me: “Dad, if I have pre-marital sex, is it a sin to use a condom?”

    I responded: “If you kill someone, is it a sin to steal their wallet?”

    The answer, obviously. Killing and stealing are both sins. But killing someone is obviously worse than stealing.

    Sure, contracepting an immoral and illicit act is sinful and compounds the act, but in for a penny, in for a pound.

    I believe contraception renders a sinful act a little more sinful, but contracepting a married conjugal act render a sacramental act sinful.