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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Fun With Abortion

I was reading another person's livejournal, when I came across a discussion of Kerry's recent comments with respect to life beginning at conception. Apparently, many people of the Republican persuasion think that it is horribly hypocritical to take a stand like "life begins at conception" while at the same time saying that abortion ought not be federally prohibited. The basis of this stance was elucidated in a post aptly named "insane," where (s)he said, "Just because something will happen regardless does not mean it should be legal."

I thought about this for a while. And then it struck me... yes, it does. I think if there is one policy position a government ought to unequivocally take when it comes to concocting laws regulating public health, it's the foremost admonition of the Hypocratic oath: "First, do no harm." If a government takes a moral stance with respect to what it believes to be the right behavior and enacts a policy to that end, the best barometer of the success of that policy is whether the outcome in both the short and long term is beneficial. When it comes to abortion, banning the procedure harms thousands of people while completely and totally failing to accomplish its perported end.

Between 1978 (when the number of legal, reported abortions "normalized" post-Roe) and 1990 (the year the most abortions were performed and reported in the US), a 19% increase in abortions performed roughly correlated to a 15% increase in population. The difference being that, during that same period of time, thousands of women's lives were not ended by dangerous procedures done by unsavory individuals. For the pro-lifers, it's also important to note that the percentage of abortions performed in the first trimester went from, before Roe, 38%, to after Roe, 89% and the number of hospitalizing infections from the procedure dropped 75%. And the good news for the pro lifers? The number of abortions is on a steady decline. From 1990 to 2000, a population increase of fourty million has corresponded to a decrease of nearly 400,000 abortions per year. This decrease, if anyone is curious, also corresponds to the reversal of the "abstainance only" sex education policy in public schools (teenagers and women over 35 account for over half of abortions), and an increase in the availability of information on contraceptives.

While I may not believe abortion is a medical right in exactly the stirring terms many advocates tend to try to make it out to be, the willful moralizing of an ignorant group of the self-rightous is hardly a compelling reason to force any surgical procedure into alleyways and the backrooms of pool halls. If life begins at conception, great, but does anyone living in this day and age really believe that telling people not to do this is going to stop them? In 1965, there was a massive stigma against having abortions, in public life, and yet women still had it done. Now, when the scarlet "A" no longer brands the chest of women who make this often difficult choice, it seems as if a law banning abortion would simply be a way of forcing poor women in a heart wrenching situation to seek a butcher for her medical needs.

If the people who hate abortion so much really want to help out, the best course of action they can possibly take is to stop propegating an incentive structure which makes the prospect for many of carrying a child to term so godawful. It's not the party who is openly against abortion who is trying to enhance entitlement programs like medicaid to cover obstetrics and postnatal care. It's not GOP who is trying to give low-income families childcare credits. It's not Bush who's standing on his soapbox trying to make adoption accessable for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. And that's not even to start in with federally mandated maternity leave.

In our society, women who are unmarried and pregnant or women who don't have the luck to be in a certain financial situation who do find themselves to be pregnant don't really face any options. Abortion is the outcome becuase the alternative is alianation from society and their evangelical families, as well as the possible loss of a job or discharge from school along with the vast financial expense to responsibly birth a child with the medical monitering so vital during the pregnancy, and the prohibitive expense of actually raising a kid. Rather than trying to impose holier-than-thou laws against the outcome, why not try working on fixing the problem for a change?

The whole thing is emblematic of the Bush administration's stance on pretty much every issue. He wants it to be that way, so he passes policy believing it will force the world into his narrow-minded vision for it. It doesn't work that way. At least Kerry has the capacity to understand that.

cranked out at 3:53 PM | |

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