The Death of the Moderate Position in the Abortion Debate
An abstinence only program in Montana told teens that “condoms cause cancer,” birth control pills are only 20% effective and cause cervical cancer and sterility.
The American experiment is a beautifully chaotic thing. Opposing sides go at it and are supposed to hammer out a compromise in the process – getting to a position both can live with, a solution that hopefully combats whatever social problem is being debated.
The intent of this process is to avert tyranny and to get to a result which is mutually acceptable to all parties involved. It keeps our politics relatively moderate and adds overall stability to political solutions.
Increasingly though the moderate perspective is being attacked on one hot button issue: abortion. I’m sure you’ve seen it, someone on your Facebook friends’ list posts an incendiary meme with an infant saying, “I’m a baby, not a choice!” or another with “get your laws off my body!” The government has even said this kind of extremism is on the rise, especially on the right.
Post a response (to whatever meme) saying the abortion issue is more complicated than a simple one-liner and you get called “commie cuck” by the right or “fascist” by the left and berated into submission or silence. This is unfortunate not just because of the lost friendships but because a true solution to the issue lies in a moderate perspective.
It is vital to realize abortion is far from a zero sum game if your goals are realistic; namely, zero abortions makes zero sense as a goal if you care about the women seeking them out. We can lower abortion rates while not interfering in the rights of women with draconian laws like those recently passed in Alabama or Georgia.
The real way to lower abortion rates without undo interference is to make sure women have enough options (i.e. birth control) and the attendant education in using them. Abortion shouldn’t even have to be thought about unless something horrible happens where the mother’s life is gravely threatened or where rape or incest occurs.
You may think, “Wait a minute! We have that already!” Unfortunately, we don’t have that already because many sex education programs are still Abstinence Only Until Marriage programs. This kind of “sexual education” has been called “ineffective” and “scientifically and ethically problematic”. The problem here is that pesky word “only”: kids deserve accuracy and full knowledge of their options, which can only happen through comprehensive, medically-accurate sex education.
Abstinence Only programs – and their highly-paid speakers – often teach absurdly-inaccurate information on scientifically-vetted birth control methods (like condoms) by “distorting” the truth. A program in Montana told teens that “condoms cause cancer”, birth control pills are only 20% effective and cause cervical cancer and sterility, and the lie that condom use increases teen pregnancy. The study they cite here actually said that the effect was driven by not providing “mandated counseling” with the condoms – if kids don’t have that needed education, what do you expect will happen?
President Obama made significant progress in dismantling these programs. Yet, just like he does with everything else Obama did, President Trump is doing his best to rollback his predecessor’s reforms.
Evangelical, pro-life groups should significantly rethink their support of Abstinence Only education; especially when it has been shown to be “positively correlated” with teen pregnancy rates, meaning kids don’t listen, hormones take over, and women get in the position where they are thinking about abortion. If we as a society care about the woman in this equation – and I’d argue those who don’t have forfeited their credibility in this debate – why aren’t we doing what we can to make sure no one gets to that place where they are considering abortion?
This gets to the other plank of the moderate position on abortion: easy (free) access to birth control. Washington University showed in a 2012 study that free access to birth control for women reduced abortion rates “by a range of 62 to 78 percent compared to the national rate. This is a finding which has been consistently repeated.
Why then is the moderate solution of proper education and easier access to birth control as the way to reduce abortion rates not being championed more?
One of the most telling bumper-stickers I ever saw read, “War is not pro-life.” Seven thousand million people is already far too many; the natural earth that has sustained us is being killed. There are more than twice as many people in the world now as when my daughter was born (she is now 52 years old). What’s “sustainable” about that? What do “development” and “growth” actually entail for the human species?
Thank you for this comprehensive and balanced and so well written argument. I tried, albeit more simplistically, to address the very problem in a piece of my own at Peer News. In it, I attempted to raise attention to the Sympto-Thermal method for birth control, the non-invasive process by which a woman can know when she is fertile and choose to abstain only during that phase. As a retired public school educator, I feel that young girls (and, boys) can be trained to use a simple thermometer, and then apply that skill once they reach puberty. I am with you entirely on the importance of modifying our sex education system. Thank you, again, for laying it all out for everyone. I’m too tired right now to use my frontal lobe, so I’ll stop at this juncture.
The issue is the anti abortion crusade is not about protecting life or even reducing/preventing abortion, it’s all about controlling and punishing women for daring to have sex! It’s about power. It’s about control. It’s about forcing theocracy on society. The evangelicals don’t care about actual living born children or women. It why they generally oppose access to contraception and medically accurate sexual health education. It’s why they oppose welfare and other support. It’s why they oppose a living wage. They want a poor, uneducated easily manipulated population with women as second class citizens. With no rights for minorities.