We are fast approaching the November election and once again, abortion is a critical factor in choosing a candidate. In truth, no one wants to see an abortion. It is a tragic moment in any society. But if we genuinely wish to reduce abortions, we must remember – abortion is the terrible symptom. The cause is unintended, unwanted pregnancy. As always, the cause must be treated if we wish to eradicate the symptom.
Unintended pregnancies, of course, give immediate rise to the common reaction – “People shouldn’t have had sex, they should have abstained.” At the risk of sounding cavalier, this is equivalent to passing laws forbidding geese from flying south in the winter. It isn’t going to happen, and we all know it. Quoting the National Institutes of Health: “These data show clearly that abstinence-only education as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy and may actually be contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S. (when compared to other industrialized nations).”
Attempting to impose abstinence begs the question: Do we wish to pass judgement and inflict punishment on others or do we want to solve the problem? The two are not the same.
There are exceptions to every rule, but the most in-depth research shows abortion rates are strongly related to poverty, low educational levels and lack of sensible, inexpensive access to birth control.
From the New England Journal of Medicine: “We found a strong inverse association between both income level and educational attainment and the rate of unintended pregnancy.”
From the Brookings Institute: “In the longer term, however, radical reductions in unintended childbearing will require improving the educational attainment and economic prospects of the most disadvantaged.”
From the Guttmacher Institute: “What seems clear is that significant future reductions in abortion levels in this country are unlikely to occur absent a bold societal commitment to helping people avoid unintended pregnancy.”
From the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis: “A new study by investigators at Washington University reports that providing birth control to women at no cost substantially reduces unplanned pregnancies and cuts abortion rates by a range of 62 to 78 percent compared to the national rate.”
Having been raised in a Catholic family, I am aware of the quandary Catholic women face where birth control is concerned. The Church maintains its strict stand against any form of artificial birth control. But facing reality in this matter is of crucial importance. Virtually all well-founded research shows that well over 90 percent of all women, including Catholic women, use, or have used, artificial methods of birth control. Using their own God given wisdom, they have made morally sound decisions.
Returning to the upcoming November elections – to truly reduce the incidence of abortion, we must seek legislators who will fight to increase income levels and the minimum wage, who will fight for adequate funding for excellent public education, and who will fight for easy, sensible and affordable access to birth control. Beware of the politician who claims to be against abortion, but is not in favor of the evidence-based policies that will actually reduce its incidence. That politician is using the tragedy for vote getting and personal gain, and their long-term actions are almost certain to increase the occurrence of abortion.
Dave Svetlik of Kronenwetter
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