Abortion is a bad thing. There’s just no way around that. Despite the attempts of some pro-choice activists to parse the definition of “human being”, the termination of a pregnancy, at any stage, terminates a human life. This is tragic and terrible and all efforts should be made to ensure that it does not happen. For this reason, access to safe, medical abortions must not be impeded.
The pro-life movement would have us believe that overturning Roe v. Wade and making the termination of pregnancy a crime would cause women to stop terminating pregnancies. They make this claim despite the fact that women had abortions before Roe made the procedure legal. The prevalence of “back alley abortions” and the abuses and deaths they brought about were part of what made access to safe, medical abortion necessary in the first place. Prohibiting behavior does not prevent it, as the continued use of marijuana and other drugs makes plain. Overturning Roe might cause a few women to carry to term infants they don’t want to have and/or can’t care for, but many would seek other, illegal ways to terminate their pregnancies. Demand creates supply, so providers for illegal abortions would appear, some with good intentions and some motivated purely by the cash incentive. Organized crime would have a new revenue stream and emergency room personnel would have to learn fast how to save the lives of women who sought abortions from providers who were, by definition, criminals. The number of botched abortions that resulted in medical intervention would be knowable, but the actual number of abortions that were occurring would be impossible to determine.
Overturning Roe would make a bad situation worse in many ways.
Reducing the number of abortions that take place, if that is the goal, cannot start with a pregnant woman who does not want to carry her child to term. At that point, the damage has been done and there is no good outcome. The only way to lower the number of abortions that take place is to lower the number of unintended pregnancies.
There are two obvious ways to lower the number of unintended pregnancies. One is to convince people not to have sex unless they intend to have children. This approach would be one-hundred-percent effective and is so ridiculous that no more time need be wasted on it. The second way to reduce the number of abortions is to ensure that unwanted pregnancies do not occur despite the fact that people are having sex. This would mean education and access to birth control. Abortions would still occur – birth control can fail, people can make mistakes and there would still be cases of rape and incest – but they would be fewer, and they would be known. Abortion providers keep records – that’s how we know how many abortions take place, where they take place and among what segments of the population. These records make it possible to target specific demographics with information.
Those who support a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy have been fighting to maintain Roe. Those who wish to eliminate – or at least reduce – the termination of pregnancies have been fighting to overturn it. This has resulted in a stalemate and a divided populace. As long as the two sides battle over the existence of Roe, no progress can be made to reduce the number of abortions that occur. Those who want to overturn Roe are clearly the ones who need to stop the fight. In doing so, they should demand that their opponents join them in the effort to do something that might actually make a difference. This shouldn’t be hard – those who fight the hardest to ensure that safe, legal abortions are available are already promoting sex education and birth control.
Sex education and access to birth control will not eliminate abortion. These are tiny steps toward reducing the number of abortions that occur. They are also the only steps that can be taken without someone imposing their will on someone else. At this time, no better solutions are apparent.