Their argument isn’t new: If we want to prevent abortions — and we all do — we need to have better sex education; better access to contraceptives; and general social and economic equality for women. It isn’t difficult. But, as they point out, the so-called “pro-life” forces in this country aren’t really interested in compromise:
Ironically, those advocating the loudest for an outright ban on abortion are too often the same people who oppose prevention initiatives and instead support making contraception less accessible, particularly for low-income women who are more likely to have unplanned pregnancies.
For example, a recent analysis by the non-partisan Guttmacher Institute revealed that South Dakota is one of the most difficult states for low-income women to obtain contraceptives.
Unfortunately, the same hypocrisy applies when it comes to funding programs that support women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term. President Bush and the Republican majority in Congress have promoted budget cuts for a wide range of programs that would provide critical supports for low-income pregnant women and their children. This includes cuts to maternal and child health programs, child care programs, the Community Services Block Grant and the Healthy Start program.
Moderate pro-lifers and pro-choicers can come easily together around these points. I don’t buy the idea that abortion is always a “tragic” choice, but I do think it’s fairly clear that almost all women would avoid having an abortion if they could. They wouldn’t get pregnant when they didn’t want to be. They wouldn’t be raped. They wouldn’t have fetuses with severe abnormalities. They wouldn’t have health- and life-threatening pregnancies. Abortion isn’t universally avoidable, but we can certainly decrease the abortion rate substantially. And it would make sense to look to countries with the lowest abortion rates (see Belgium, Norway, etc) and see how they did it (hint: really good sex education, universal healthcare, access to contraception, sex-positive attitudes).
I really like to think that all these things could bring pro-choicers and pro-lifers together. The problem, though, is that too many of the mainstream “pro-life” organizations are so extremist that they simply aren’t willing to compromise. They believe that there is a single proper way to live your life, and that if you deviate from that by having sex before marriage, or using contraception, or having sex for pleasure (as opposed to for baby-making), or by choosing to be child-free, or by wanting to limit your family size, you’ve committed some sort of grave anti-life offense. Now, your average person who identifies as pro-life doesn’t think any of these things. They most likely dislike abortion and want to see it happen less frequently. Unfortunately, though, the groups that are speaking for them seek to limit abortion by restricting it, instead of decreasing the need for it.
I hope that Hillary and Harry are right, and that pro-choice and pro-life groups can come together around pregnancy-prevention and well-baby measures that both decrease the abortion rate and make giving birth more of a possibility for low-income women. But I won’t be holding my breath.
- A Pro-Life Policy I Can Support by Jill September 24, 2006
- Women of Color More Likely to Have Unintended Pregnancies by Jill May 12, 2006
- I guess women’s lives aren’t included in that whole “pro-life” thing by Jill October 13, 2007
- It’s the Birth Control, Stupid by Jill June 28, 2006
- This Is Why Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s Little Meltdown Matters by zuzu August 4, 2006