The Unorthodox Way to End Abortion
There’s a better way to end abortion than banning it
Pro-lifers have seen victory after victory lately, as states continue to pass laws prohibiting abortions. Before pulling out the confetti and fireworks, however, we need to think about what these laws will actually do for abortion rates in America.
Why Laws Alone Will Not Stop Abortion
Of course, outlawing something horrific is a good thing, but if outlawing that thing does not lead to a reduction in the frequency with which that thing is done, what good is the outlawing it in the first place? Simply making abortion illegal will not necessarily lower abortion rates. Resources outside of law enforcement must come into play if we really want to end abortion. This is even more true in the case of abortion than of any other crime, because police resources will not (and should not) be used to investigate uteri for signs of past life, thus the risk for being caught as an abortion provider is much lower than a common criminal. All this is to say pro-lifers must support methods of preventing women from wanting abortions in the first place.
More than just a talking point, the idea that outlawing abortion will not reduce its rates is reflected in global data. According to the Guttmacher institute, “Abortion rates are similar in countries where abortion is highly restricted [37 per 1,000] and where it is broadly legal [34 per 1,000].” As expected, there are several reasons for this fact. One is that countries with strict laws against abortion tend to be less developed, making the circumstances surrounding pregnancy much more dire than in the U.S. or Canada. However, Guttmacher highlights another reason: lack of access to birth control and more frequent unplanned pregnancies.
Turns out, contraception is the strongest weapon against abortion, not laws.
From the Guttmacher report cited above, “As of 2010–2014, an estimated 99 million unintended pregnancies occur each year worldwide. Of these, more than half (56%) end in abortion.” With that fact in mind, the picture becomes clear. Increase access to contraception and unintended pregnancies will decline. Reduce the frequency of unintended pregnancies and abortions will decline.
Objections to Contraception
Without a doubt, most objections to contraception will be based in religious moral values. This includes abstinence until marriage and a general (and justified) objection to a casual view of sex. Regardless of whether these beliefs are correct, they have no justification for being put into law. Laws are created to protect rights and safety. For example, you have the right to own property, therefore there are laws which prohibit me from taking your property. However, someone else’s sexual promiscuity does not violate anyone else’s rights, therefore there is no justification for legally restricting their sex life. That is to say, whatever moral issues people associate with contraception, they are often unjustified and either way have no place in law. Furthermore, use of contraception does not necessarily mean one is living an immoral sex life. For example, 77% of married women use contraception in some form. This means that by pushing for more access to contraception, we would not be promoting sexual immorality, because what people choose to do with that contraception would be their responsibility and contraception in itself is not necessarily immoral. Also, whatever objection one has to contraception must be minute in comparison to the immorality of ending innocent lives.
Another objection would be to point out that there are obviously ways to reduce abortion rates other than increasing access to contraception. However, contraception access is a clear, data-backed way to reduce abortions. Pro-lifers should absolutely work to increase aid to single mothers, foster children, poor families, and more, because those efforts will also reduce abortion. But it simply cannot be denied that preventing unintended pregnancies will prevent the creation of a baby that would otherwise be at risk of being aborted. Therefore, we need to also make an effort to increase access to all forms of contraception.
Pro-lifers all agree that we must end abortion. Unfortunately, we tend to focus our efforts on pushing for laws and assisting mothers after they are already pregnant. While these efforts are effective and should continue, pro-lifers must also expand those efforts to preventing unintended pregnancies in the first place. A woman who becomes pregnant and does not have the resources to care for a child may opt for an abortion before she even learns about the various charities (like these) and programs (like these) that are available to her. Therefore, the most certain way to prevent abortions is to prevent the unintended creation of children.