“We’ve banned the barbaric partial-birth abortion procedure (on the fourth try). We tightened regulation of abortion facilities, closing numerous dangerous offenders. We overcame Snyder’s veto and stopped Obamacare from forcing people to purchase health insurance coverage of abortion.”
That’s Chris Gast (“Letter: Nothing irrational about electing pro-lifers,” Dec. 6) listing Michigan’s Right to Life’s accomplishments for the past decades. Fair enough, but not good enough, especially since Republicans controlled Michigan’s state government for eight years and the federal government for two.
The bottom line is pro-life organizations, supported by pro-life voters, have not ended or meaningfully limited abortion. They provided a few hurdles for those seeking or providing pregnancy terminations, but that’s it. This distinction is huge.
But let’s dig deeper into the topic and begin on common ground. I believe nearly everyone would like to see the number of abortions reduced, so let’s start there.
If pro-lifers are serious, they should address the primary cause of abortion — unwanted pregnancies.
A nation cannot fully prevent pregnancies. Only couples can, but government can promote the conditions that lead couples to do so. The question is how.
Teach abstinence? That approach has been a debacle. Study after study show such programs are ineffective.
Shun unmarried pregnant women? I grew up in that environment, and besides being ineffective, it was also cruel and sexist. Women were scorned while men, a bit embarrassed at their situation, went on their way.
The fact is people, including those unmarried, engage in sexual relations. That will not change. The most realistic way to avoid conception is through the use of contraceptives. That requires two conditions — ensuring contraceptives are available and ensuring people know how to use them.
The first is already a reality. Contraceptives are available in drug stores across the country. The second — making sure people know how to use them and want to use them — is the primary problem.
Americans have left sex education primarily up to parents. Our nation expects parents to discuss and teach sex education to their children. Most states do not require sex education in schools, and of the states that do, more states require a stress on abstinence than require information on contraception. How has this gone? Not well at all.
America has one of highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world. Only a few Eastern European countries have rates higher than America’s.
This staggering statistic leads to the abortion debate. In America, 19 of every 1,000 pregnant women abort. That rate is higher than Scandinavia’s, twice the rate of Belgium’s, Portugal’s, the Netherlands’ and Italy’s, and three times as great as Switzerland’s and Germany’s.
Japan, Switzerland and the Netherlands have the lowest rates, largely because these countries mandate sex education in schools. There is a significant correlation between sex education in schools and teenage pregnancy rates.
If Right To Life and pro-lifers are serious about reducing abortion, they should shift their lobbying efforts to require sex education, including the use of contraceptives, in America’s schools. This strategy is glaringly sensible.
So why don’t they?
Right To Life is financially supported by Christian evangelicals. Many of these supporters oppose sex education in the schools for religious reasons. They believe premarital sex is sinful.
I don’t fault them their belief. Such is their right, but they must understand two things. First, not everyone shares their religious view. Second, 80 percent of young evangelicals have engaged in premarital sex (according to Religion News Service writer Adelle M. Banks).
Sometimes we must recognize we cannot completely control others. Sometimes we must practice our moral principles but allow others to follow theirs, though they differ from ours. Not only is this pragmatic, it is consistent with the nature of liberty.
To reduce the number of abortions, Right To Life and pro-lifers should encourage, even demand, the teaching of contraception in our schools. They should elect politicians who advance that cause.
There is still one other aspect to consider. A large portion of unwanted pregnancies befall single, young, poor women. Out of necessity, they rely on the government for assistance.
I’ve noticed many who lament abortion, both politicians and voters, also decry public assistance for these mothers. While not hypocritical, this approach is somewhat shady and inconsistent. The slogan “They care about you until you’re born” seems to apply.
Right To Life and pro-life voters, step to the plate and demand educational action to reduce abortion. It’s well past time.
— Ray Buursma is a resident of Holland. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.