The reality of abortion

This piece from David Frum is so good in addressing the realities of abortion in the United States (and a great comparative perspective), rather than the hypothetical “what about cases of rape or incest?” which are in infinitesimal fraction of actual abortions, but consume far too much of our attention.  It also calls out Republicans for being pro-life before birth, but not so much after.  Lots of good stuff here:

When Richard Mourdock delivered his notorious answer about rape and abortion, I was sorry that the debate moderator failed to follow up with the next question:
“OK, Mr. Mourdock, you say your principles require a raped woman to carry the rapist’s child to term. That’s a heavy burden to impose on someone. What would you do for her in return? Would you pay her medical expenses? Compensate her for time lost to work? Would you pay for the child’s upbringing? College education?
“If a woman has her credit card stolen, her maximum liability under federal law is $50. Yet on your theory, if she is raped, she must endure not only the trauma of assault, but also accept economic costs of potentially many thousands of dollars. Must that burden also fall on her alone? When we used to draft men into the Army, we gave them veterans’ benefits afterward. If the state now intends to conscript women into involuntary childbearing, surely those women deserve at least an equally generous deal?”
That question sounds argumentative, and I suppose it is.
But there’s a serious point here, and it extends well beyond the anguishing question of sexual assault.
If you’re serious about reducing abortion, the most important issue is not which abortions to ban. The most important issue is how will you support women to have the babies they want.
As a general rule, societies that do the most to support mothers and child-bearing have the fewest abortions. Societies that do the least to support mothers and child-bearing have more abortions…
Women choose abortion for one overwhelming reason: economic insecurity. [emphases mine] The large majority of women who chose abortion in 2008, 57%, reported a disruptive event in their lives in the previous 12 months: most often, the loss of a job or home.
Of the women who choose abortion, 58% are in their 20s. Some 61% of them already have a child. Almost 70% of them are poor or near poor.
Three-quarters say they cannot afford another child.
Pro-life and pro-choice debaters delight in presenting each other with exquisitely extreme moral dilemmas: “Would you ban abortion even in case of rape?” “Would you permit abortion even when done only to select the sex of the child?”
These dorm-room hypotheticals do not have very much to do with the realities of abortion in the U.S. and elsewhere…
Abortion is a product of poverty and maternal distress.
A woman who enjoys the most emotional and financial security and who has chosen the timing of her pregnancy will not choose abortion, even when abortion laws are liberal. A woman who is dominated, who is poor and who fears bearing the child is likely to find an abortion, even where abortion is restricted, as it was across the United States before 1965.
So maybe at the next candidates’ debate, a journalist will deflect the discussion away from “what if” and instead ask this:
“Rather than tell us what you’d like to ban, tell us please what you think government should do to support more happy and healthy childbearing, to reduce unwanted pregnancies and to alleviate the economic anxieties of mothers-to-be?”
Those are the questions that make the difference. It’s amazing how little we talk about them.
That’s what’s so damn frustrating about what’s going on in this country.  If the “pro-life” people really wanted fewer abortions there’s so many clear policy steps that they could take that have nothing to do with regulating abortion.  Now, if their goal, on the other hand, is not actually reducing abortion, but reducing women’s autonomy over their bodies and choices, well, they are all on top of that.
Oh, and for the record, consider me strongly in favor of fewer abortions.  That’s why I’m strongly in favor in making contraceptive access super-available and providing needed government support to poor women and children.
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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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