Good news on abortion

Given the entrenched anger on both sides of the abortion debate, we don’t expect a truce for a joint celebration of the latest abortion figures. But both sides have something to cheer about.

Earlier this week, the Guttmacher Institute released a report that indicates the rate of abortions nationwide in 2011 — 17 abortions for every 1,000 women — was down from 2008, and is now just slightly above the rate in 1973, the year the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade decision.

And it’s not just the rate of abortion that dropped. The Guttmacher study also found that the total number of abortions in this country declined from roughly 1.25 million in 2008 to 1.1 million in 2011.

Those on the anti-abortion side will no doubt proclaim those numbers are still too high. But they can also make a reasonable argument that their efforts to inform young women about the perils of abortion and to highlight political fights about it are having an effect.

On the other side, those who believe in unrestricted access to abortion can cheer the fact that more and more young women, according to the Guttmacher study, are turning to new and better forms of birth control to prevent pregnancies from occurring in the first place.

Whatever one’s views, the Guttmacher study, which tracks with similar reports from the federal Centers for Disease Control, is welcome evidence that abortion is declining, not rising.


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Today’s Sentinel editorial – “Good news on abortion” – diplomatically begs the question “why”, while positing a false equivalency between “the entrenched anger on both sides”.

Most Americans agree that early-term abortions should be legal, safe, and rarer.  In fact, 89% of induced abortions occur in the first trimester (i.e.. before viability).

“Those on the anti-abortion (and ‘personhood’) side” seem motivated by religious conviction that abortion (and even contraception) is morally repugnant and equivalent to “murder”.

Such extremism engenders “anger” because it ardently seeks to impose religious dogma on those who reject those beliefs, it encourages tactics (including assassination of legal abortion providers) that violate and/or threaten the fundamental constitutional rights of “non-believers”, and hypocritically advocates public policies that would actually make abortions illegal, thus less safe, and even more frequent.

Moreover, because the decline in abortion rates paralleled a decline in pregnancies, the Sentinel’s editors were overly generous in lending any credence to the pretension that anti-abortion “education” and/or “political fights” (by the same folks who also preach “abstinence” and oppose age-appropriate sex education) had much effect on the decline.

Rather, both the Guttmacher Institute and the Center for Disease Control identify two primary causes of the decline in “unwanted pregnancies” (now “only” 50%) and thus abortions:  the wider availability of reliable contraceptives and the economic downturn.

The Affordable Care Act expands women’s access to free preventive care (including contraception), but its virulent opponents adamantly oppose that and Planned Parenthood – even though both make a greater practical contribution to reducing abortions than do the antics of “pro-lifers”.

Fortunately, the continuing recession is apparently causing more couples to carefully reconsider the economic ramifications of unplanned parenting.

Unfortunately, and contrary to Mike Huckabee’s insults to women, the fact that 50% of pregnancies are still “unplanned” means that more men need to exercise more control of their libidos.

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