The pro-life movement is completely convinced by now that abortion is murder and must be eliminated, and then all will be well. Some pro-lifers even have the nerve to call themselves “new abolitionists” (though they fail to realize that it was Christians who supported segregation most adamantly).
Abortions are not inherently good things, but when a person has an unwanted pregnancy, an abortion is the necessary way to solve this problem. But the problem is unwanted pregnancies. The symptom is abortions. Through a few simple strategies, we can solve much of the cases of unwanted pregnancies without abortions.
Strategy 1: Sex Education
Unwanted pregnancies would be vastly reduced if a comprehensive federal sex education program were put into place at the public schools. Conservative Christians will get squeamish here, but the whole point of the sex education is to reduce unwanted pregnancies, and thus abortions, which is what the pro-life movement has been pushing for.
When should sex ed take place? Before children are likely to become sexually active. Simply put, abstinence education is ineffective. In Switzerland, which has a sex ed program that is proven to work, only 8 women out of a thousand between ages 15-19 were pregnant. The U.S.? 7 times that number. Wyoming also instituted better sex ed, and the teen pregnancies dropped by 40%. For decades, the vast majority of Americans have been sexually active before marriage. The solution is to teach children how to use their bodies wisely.
That’s not to say that schools should bypass parents – parents should discuss these issues with their children, early on, and we need to eliminate the taboo on sexual topics. That’s why Americans are so uneducated on the practice of safe sex. For example, many Americans think that:
- Anal sex cannot result in pregnancy (it can and often does)
- Condoms protect against all STDs (they do not)
- Oral sex has no risk of transmitting STDs (it does have such a risk)
- Pulling-out prevents pregnancy (in fact, one-in-five couples who use the pulling-out method still conceive)
- STDs are easy to see (they are not)
- The morning-after-pill eliminates an early pregnancy (actually, it will not work if you are already pregnant)
- Condoms can be reused (reusing them causes the material to break down, rendering it ineffective)
Abortions are a certain solution for teen pregnancies, but not remotely an ideal one. The pro-choice movement proposes abortion not for its own sake but for the sake of alleviating unwanted pregnancies, which is why the pro-choice movement is also pro-sex ed, and also, pro-contraception.
Strategy 2: Easy Access to Contraception
Pro-lifers really want to eliminate contraception, but they know that’s an unfeasible goal, and they’d rather have contraception than abortion, so they hide their opposition. The birth control pill is infamously imperfect, so LARCs, long-acting reversible contraceptives, are 20 times as effective as the pill. They need to be conveniently available.
40% of unplanned U.S. pregnancies are due to careless usage of birth control. 40%! Imagine how many abortions would have not had to occur, if birth control had been used properly. To that end, contraceptives should be made easier to use, and the instructions for usage should be presented more clearly.
Is this just hypothetical? No. Delaware reduced its abortion rate by 37%, and Colorado 34%, after LARC programs were instituted. Another study found that free contraceptives cut abortion rates by two-thirds. With even more improvements in the realm of contraception, unwanted pregnancies can be significantly reduced without the unfortunate abortion procedure.
Strategy 3: Remove Nuisance Regulations
Conservative states repeatedly institute regulations to make abortions and contraceptives inconvenient, with mandatory waiting periods, counseling, reading materials, and listening to fetal cardiac cells pulse. The Satanic Temple (what is TST?) fought for a Judy Doe case wherein
Missouri mandated that she receive literature which asserts that “the life of each human being begins at conception,” and that “[a]bortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” Doe was also required to endure a 72-hour waiting period, designed so that the state’s position on life, which contradicts a prior legal ruling by the Eighth Circuit, will be thoroughly considered before undergoing the procedure.
These sorts of restrictions are not at all uncommon. They need to be eliminated in order to reduce unwanted pregnancies. The wait time from a woman’s discovery of an unwanted pregnancy, to the time when she has an abortion (if she chooses to!) should be reduced as much as possible, and certainly without reading propaganda designed to discourage it.
How Much Would This Cost?
My capitalist friends will be complaining now. “Free contraception and sex ed will cost the state too much money!” Hardly. One study concluded, “Teen childbearing cost taxpayers $9.1 billion in 2004.” Earlier I mentioned the Colorado program wherein abortions were reduced 34%. Under this program, every dollar invested saved six in Medicaid costs. The Brookings Institution has also predicted such savings. The statistics are clear: contraception programs reduce taxpayer costs, reduce unwanted pregnancies, and reduce abortions. It’s a win-win.
Through comprehensive sex education, easy access to contraception, and an elimination of nuisance restrictions, unwanted pregnancies can be significantly reduced (the goal of the pro-choice movement), and thus abortions can be significantly reduced (the goal of the pro-life movement). On this both movements can find common ground, if conservatives would get over their squeamishness.