OPINION: Why We Continuously Miss The Mark in the Abortion Debate (Part 2)

For those against abortion, at least everyone can count on the pro-life movement to do everything possible to reduce the number of abortions, right? Not really. This team has a quarterback who can throw long but the receivers are slow, run poor routes and can’t catch.

Opponents of abortion may be vocally and consistently criticizing abortion but in terms of working within the status quo to reduce the number, there is a complicit failure. It’s time to focus on the running game.

Since no one is in favor of unwanted pregnancies, perhaps we can all work together on finding better ways to prevent them. So, pro-lifers, in my best Sean Connery voice (circa The Untouchables) “What are you prepared to do about it?”

Guttmacher reports:

“When used correctly, modern contraceptives are extremely effective at preventing pregnancy. The two-thirds of U.S. women at risk of unintended pregnancy who practice contraception consistently and correctly account for only 5% of unintended pregnancies. “

Those most adamant about entitlement reform usually don’t want to pay for anyone else’s birth control. Neither do I, but given the option of that and either a) more abortions or b) another kid on welfare, I’ll ante up for the former.

There are, of course, religious objections to providing birth control either through government funding or private insurance. Where do we draw the line? Christian Scientists don’t believe in medical care but still pay taxes that support Medicare and Medicaid. Observant Jews don’t eat non-Kosher foods but don’t try to keep them off public school lunch menus.

Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post hit the proverbial nail on the head when she remarked during the Sandra Fluke/Rush Limbaugh spectacle:

“The only question has been whether the federal government can force religious organizations to pay for something that violates their freedom of conscience. For the record, if I were dictator, I’d put contraceptives in the drinking water on college campuses. But the Catholic Church and other religious entities do not share my view, and our laws have always tried to allow generous exceptions to rules that conflict with moral principle.”

Heck, why stop at college campuses. It may be awkward to ask an observant Catholic to consider and they’re already living in a society that does not share their values as far as respecting the unborn. In the interest of helping prevent abortions, should we ask them to also promote birth control? I think so.

We can all preach abstinence but let’s be realistic: abstinence-only education doesn’t work. Other natural methods of pregnancy prevention are difficult to employ consistently. In attempting to find the path to the moral high ground, we are proving the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

We can teach abstinence first and family values but ultimately, some people will make choices that have consequences.
In a conversation with a friend and observant Catholic, I learned if a family is genuinely going to be adversely affected by the birth of another child, it is not a presumptive rule that birth control is out of the question; rather, the family is directed to consult their priest and pray for answers. Wiggle room in church doctrine? Who knew?

If the Catholic Church can be open to that idea, perhaps other pro-lifers can as well. That means Tennessee legislators and others who don’t want kids “exposed” to any information about sex other than “don’t have any,” those who want to pass “don’t say gay” laws, the ones so concerned with promoting “gateway sexual activity” they make teachers worry about being fired for even discussing it and anyone who thinks by not teaching children about the complexities of sex we will somehow insulate them when their peers, movies and television do the opposite.

Even with home or church schooling and avoiding entertainment, kids are still subject to puberty, hormones, and curiosity. The sexual revolution can’t be undone. So here’s an alert for everyone: we can’t stop people from having sex.

We can teach abstinence first and family values but ultimately, some people will make choices that have consequences. We have people who either don’t have easy access to birth control, don’t know how to use it properly, or don’t care enough to be bothered.

We are often forced to choose between the lesser of two evils and while I am not a theologian, I presume that the gap between birth control (including helping pay for someone else’s) and abortion is significant.

As for public expense, few are interested in taxpayer-subsidized abortions, but efforts to drastically reduce abortion by preventing unwanted pregnancies should be encouraged, especially when they are proven to work.

“Fiscal responsibility” is not a short term proposition; it sometimes involves spending now to save later. Personal responsibility must be taught, particularly where the family unit has broken down. Sometimes the end does justify the means.

Many who have children they can’t afford cost the taxpayer more and the cycle continues, so perhaps pro-lifers should put their money where their mouth is and do something besides opposing the idea of abortion. Like it or not, abortion is still legal in this country and for those who wish to work to change the law, that is their right.

In the meantime, devoting energy to mucking up the system with laws designed to impede the process is unproductive. Stop wasting airtime and taxpayer dollars trying to make it harder or more humiliating for women who choose to exercise their legal rights. It’s not an effective strategy and provides fodder for your opponents.

Yes, women should be strongly encouraged to consider all the options including adoption, but forcing someone to have a transvaginal probe is a little more than intrusive.

There are also extreme points of view about how someone considering an abortion should be treated. I spoke to a woman who, to her credit, had given birth to a son conceived through rape and firmly believed that regardless of the horrible beginning, her child was a huge blessing.

Unfortunately she also stated that she believes any woman having an abortion deserves to be humiliated and treated with disdain.

A friend who commented to me that if given the choice between forcing her daughter to carry a rape-conceived fetus to term or an early abortion, she would prefer the latter. Yes, adoption would be ideal but we should all be able to empathize.

Both sides seem to be stuck in a cycle of trying to shut the barn door after the horse is out. It doesn’t work, so here’s a better suggestion: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

It’s understandable why Planned Parenthood is controversial. With roughly 86% of non-federal revenue from abortions, PP is a fundraising machine and heavily involved in the political arena. They have also opposed initiatives that require waiting periods before abortions and bans on late-term abortions, which have been illegal in the U.S. since 2003.

That certainly puts them on the outside of mainstream thought, plus they receive millions in federal funds plus state and local grants.

However, they do a lot of good. Of all services performed, abortion only constitutes 3%. According to the organization:

“In 2009, Planned Parenthood provided 4,009,549 contraceptive services (35% of total), 3,955,926  sexually transmitted disease services (35% of total), 1,830,811 cancer related services (16% of total), 1,178,369 pregnancy/prenatal/midlife services (10% of total), 332,278 abortion services (3% of total), and 76,977 other services (1% of total), for a total of 11,383,900 services. The organization also said its doctors and nurses annually conduct 1 million screenings for cervical cancer and 830,000 breast exams.”

Clearly, if accurate, the other 97% is an important part of women’s health care, including contraceptive services that prevent abortion.

Seventy-five percent of Planned Parenthood’s clients have incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. So when the Texas Legislature decided to battle the Obama Administration over funds for the Women’s Health Program by defunding PP, they were potentially inhibiting much more than abortions.

Granted, some areas have other providers, but in others they are scarce.

There are other ancillary things as well which don’t bode well for pragmatism or common sense. Before the 2012 election, Paul Ryan was the target of some criticism for taking stimulus funds back in his district after he had opposed the stimulus itself. After the program was passed and the funds allocated, whom would Ryan have served by standing on principle if that meant denying his district some of the money that was already being spent?

By the same token, while abortion is legal, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to oppose research that uses aborted fetuses. The recent controversy at Planned Parenthood suggested profiting from the sale which is clearly unacceptable. However, if any of the research can be used to cure disease or save lives, perhaps these deaths might not be for nothing.

Again, this is not about deliberately terminating pregnancies to reap the rewards; it’s about finding some benefit in an admittedly unfortunate situation.

Finally, the “two wrongs” argument cuts both ways. We do need to understand foreign policy shouldn’t routinely include preemptive wars and children should be taken care of after they are born, even if we believe their parents aren’t fit to be parents.

We may never know if the powers of the universe look unfavorably on a species that wantonly interrupts its own procreation once the offspring has been created and kills each other continually thereafter. Regardless, there is much more we can do to prevent something that most people agree is an undesirable course of action.

Author’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series examining how both abortion rights advocates and opponents are failing to address the real issues surrounding abortion. View part one here. A full unabridged version of the original post can be found here.