The title of Ruth Ann Dailey’s column today (“What makes abortion rates decline?”) is somewhat misleading. I think it should be something closer to Abortion Advocates Lie in Studies” or something. Ruth Ann tells us that two studies from the Guttmacher Institute contradict each other. One indicates that around the world, abortion rates are the same in countries where it is legal and where it is illegal. Ruth Ann quite correctly points out that any data from the countries where abortion is illegal would have to be estimates. The second study, about the US alone, show that abortion rates are the lowest they have been since a high reached in 1981. Ruth Ann claims the second study contradicts the first, but her description of the details of the methodology of the first leads me to believe it was simply poorly designed.
The funny thing, to me, is that Ruth Ann does not discuss the second study, why it might be that abortion rates have dropped for the last twenty five years. She devotes two paragraphs, three sentences, giving credit to the pro-life movement for the drop. She calls it “speaking out about its tragedy”.
The thing is, the pro-choice/pro-life conflict has much of the same extreme language as the gun control/gun rights conflict. Gun owners worry that any restriction on gun ownership will lead directly to a gun ban, or at least that’s how they portray the situation. Similarly, the pro-choice people seem to feel that the pro-life people want to use restrictions as a wedge to ban all abortions. Right now, gun owners and pro-life people have the courts more or less on their side, although its hard to stretch the law or precedents too far.
But I suspect that, not including the zealots, most people who are pro-choice don’t really want to see a world where there is abortion on demand. For myself, anyway, I would like to see a world where all sex is consensual, and where birth control is readily available (without stigma) for use, and its use in encouraged publicly. That way, the only abortions that would have to occur would be in those rare cases where the birth control failed, and not necessarily even then.
Obviously I am engaging in a bit of fantasy here, the world that exists today is quite different, essentially because of the pro-life movement. The pro-lifers have used the power of publicity to exploit seemingly reasonable issues (such as forcing teenagers to get the permission of parents before getting abortions) to legislate extensive restrictions on abortions. They have used negative publicity to force abortion providers out of business, especially in rural states (something like 2 providers in the whole state of Wyoming). In Pennsylvania, poor women can’t get abortions at publicly funded clinics unless their life is in danger or they say they were raped. Ironically, employees of the state have the same restrictions under the state health plan (but they could possibly pay for the procedure themselves). And 7o percent of Pennsylvania counties, presumably all rural or with a small city such as Erie, have no abortion providers.
I have the impression that Ruth Ann wants to say that abortion rates have fallen because we have evolved morally, that more of us agree with the pro-life movement. This despite the fact that there is little evidence of moral growth in other areas, such as crime or energy usage. In fact, ironically, the ability to make a choice about whether to have an abortion has been taken away from women in rural areas and poor women in urban areas. I guess these matters are too important not to be controlled by a "nanny state".