Legislating Morality

Republicans have spent decades attempting to overturn Roe versus Wade and legislate an end to abortion and their version of immorality. In contrast, true conservatives believe individuals can make better choices than an obtrusive government. Liberals are certain they know best and believe in using the power of government to enforce their decisions. Some examples of liberal legislation are:

  • Prohibition
  • Civil Rights Laws
  • The War on Drugs

Prohibition and the War on Drugs failed while civil rights laws are accepted and obeyed. So, what is the difference between success and failure? More important, how do these lessons apply to today’s liberals, Republicans planning to use the power of government to outlaw abortions?

Successful liberal legislation’s common trait is overwhelming popular support. Southern segregationists on-wittingly provided the driving force for civil rights law passage and  support for those laws when television documented brutal beatings of African-Americans, Freedom Rider murders and church bombings that killed innocent African-American children.

However, Prohibition and the War on Drugs failed. In each case, focused liberal groups with accomplished political abilities and connections got legislation passed for worthy causes. However, they each lacked broad-based popular support.

Sophisticated criminal distribution networks circumvented Prohibition and drug laws while satisfying the demand of ordinary citizens who otherwise never considered doing anything illegal. Legions of alcohol and drug dealers were jailed or killed. Yet, because of demand from people who did not support the laws, someone else is always ready to step in and keep the system functioning without a hitch.

Given this background, it is a fair question to ask, “What would happen if legislation criminalizing abortion was enacted?” Would the 1.3 million women getting abortions every year meekly continue their pregnancies and become happy mothers?

Odds are, that won’t happen. Twenty-seven percent of women getting abortions in 2008 had incomes from 100 to 199% of the U.S. poverty level. Another 31% had family incomes greater than 200% of the U.S. poverty level.1.  It is safe to assume all the women in the high-income group and at least a third of the group in the 100-199% level have the financial where-with-all to travel outside the U.S. for an abortion. For these women, representing 40% of U.S abortions, the proposed Republican law is not even a speed bump in the process of safely terminating their unwanted pregnancies. For women without the means to travel abroad, a nationwide abortion ban will create a new underground industry to meet their needs.

Many Pro-Lifers fantasize about seeing abortion doctors standing trial for murder. This may not work out as they plan. Instead, a typical provider might be a retired inner city nurse and grandmother with no prior criminal record whose only goal is providing poor women the same options rich, white women get outside the U.S. Getting a conviction would be difficult enough with a jury made up of her peers. Add in that 30% of U.S. women that reach 45 had an abortion1. (with higher proportions in low-income areas) and one gets an idea of the difficulty finding a twelve member inner city jury to convict an abortion provider of anything.   

In this underground environment, minors will not need parental consent. Low-income girls and women may be more comfortable with an illicit local abortion provider that doesn’t ask questions or have any forms to fill out than at a doctor’s office.

The bottom line is outlawing legal abortions will ease the establishment of an under ground abortion industry that risks making abortions easier to obtain and quite possibly might increase the number of abortions performed in the United States.

An alternative, conservative strategy for reducing abortions…

The Contraceptive Choice Project illustrates an effective, research-backed alternative for reducing abortion numbers. Researchers enrolled 9,256 women from the St. Louis region between August 2007 and September 2011 and provided free, FDA-approved birth control for three years.

The women ranged from 14 to 45 years old, with a mean age of 25. Many were poor and uninsured with low education. They were given the choice of free contraception, including oral birth control pills and long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods like implants and IUDs. The LARC methods were the most popular and effective.

“The Contraceptive Choice Project would prevent as many as 41% to 71% of abortions performed annually in the United States,” the study’s authors wrote. The effect of free contraception on the teen birth rate was even larger; there were 6.3 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 in the study, compared with the national teen rate of 34.3 births.2.

A lower teen birth rate offers many long-term benefits for a country’s economic growth. If teens are able to finish high school and perhaps obtain a technical college or college degree before starting a family, they are more employable and have a far higher salary potential. Dramatically lowering the U.S. teen pregnancy rate has significant promise for reducing the level of poverty in the United States.

Complications…

Free birth control is part of the Affordable Health Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.  Expanding the Contraceptive Choice Project nationally and eliminating 40-70% of abortions should have the support of everyone who believes abortion is wrong and especially those who think it is murder. Everyone, except Republicans.

It is a strange world we live in. The most ardent opponents of abortion fight a proposal to dramatically reduce the numbers of abortions. This makes cynics question their commitment to preventing abortions and ask if the real purpose of their effort is to legislate their morality, which has little to do with abortion and more to do with outlawing all forms of birth control. So, what is the GOP morality and what groups make up their policies?

  • Some Republicans recognize the harm abortion does and might support expanding the Contraceptive Choice Program.
  • Others are actually more interested in “bringing our country back to God” by eliminating sex outside of marriage. Eliminating birth control is Step 1.
  • Another group believes nothing should interfere with conception and all forms of birth control should be outlawed. Traditional Catholics dominate this group. Eliminating birth control is Step 1.
  • Still others believe sex (except for procreation) is a sin. This group also believes not only abortion, but all forms of artificial birth control should be outlawed.

The later three groups are outliers when looking at data on sex in the United States.

  • By age 44, 99% of U.S. citizens have had sex and 95% did so before marriage.3.
  • More than 99% of women who had intercourse used at least one form of artificial birth control.3.
  • Among women born in the 1940’s, over 90% had sex before marriage.3.

The trouble is, they are the mainstream of the Republican party. Republican positions on Planned Parenthood, comprehensive sex education in schools and the Contraceptive Choice Program indicate outliers are the tail that wags the Republican dog. Long before there was a Tea Party, Frugal Ron had the displeasure of repeatedly listening to traditionalists explain that birth control is responsible for the demise of American families. They believe self-sufficient young women should stay home and raise babies instead of trying to change the world. At the same time, this group also is certain the world will receive God’s punishment because of our tolerance for sexual promiscuity. 

A program offering free and effective birth control is the last thing they want to see happen.  Republicans opposition to abortion has limits.

Summary

The abortion debate is really about two issues. One is about abortion itself and the other is about criminalizing abortion. There really should not be any argument about abortions.Virtually everyone agrees if there are fewer abortions, the world is a better place. True Conservatives believe individuals can make better decisions than an intrusive government. However, if government can provide the means to reduce unwanted pregnancies and thereby lower the number of abortions, that is a very good thing. In contrast, Republicans propose an expansion of government power to enforce legislation outlawing abortion. Lacking popular support, the proposed laws may actually make abortions more available and common. 

We don’t need more unenforceable laws. We need solutions that dramatically reduce the trauma unwanted pregnancies and abortions cause.  If government has the means to end 41 to 71% of the abortions performed in this country, it is an abomination to sit still. This should be a bi-partisan effort. However, we  need a more constructive and realistic Republican abortion policy representing more than 5-10% of the public.

 

 

1.Jones RK, Finer LB and Singh S, Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2010.

2. McNicholas C, Peipert JF, Long-acting reversible contraception for adolescents. 2012 Oct; 24(5): 293-8. Current Opinion Obstetrics and Gynecology.

3. “Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954–2003,” by Lawrence B. Finer, published in the January/February 2007 issue of Public Health Reports.

 


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