Tag: Abortion in the United States

Back to the 60’s

One of the things that rarely gets talked about is how many social issues have dramatically improved over the last 20-30 years. Crime, for example, has plunged to rates not seen since the 1960’s. Teen pregnancy rates are down to the lowest levels since we started measuring. Drug use rates are steady or down.

Oh, and something else is way down: abortion:

The abortion rate in the United States dropped to its lowest point since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in all 50 states, according to a study suggesting that new, long-acting contraceptive methods are having a significant impact in reducing unwanted pregnancies.

There were fewer than 17 abortions for every 1,000 women in 2011, the latest year for which figures were available, according a paper published Monday from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion-rights think tank. That is down 13 percent from 2008 and a little higher than the rate in 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

The abortion rate is now down to almost half of what it was in the early 80’s, when it peaked. And it’s not just Guttmacher. CDC measured the abortion rate even lower, at 14.5 per thousand.

Despite the first paragraph, the study did not actually look at the reasons why the abortion rate has fallen. Guttmacher is claiming that it is because of better sex education and contraception availability (particularly the IUD). While these have certainly played a role, I am dubious that they can explain the entire drop or even most of it. Teen pregnancies have plunged and unintended pregnancies are down a bit, but the live birth rate has been steady for the last 40 years and the unintended pregnancy rate hasn’t fallen nearly as much as the abortion rate has. So while it’s true that a large portion can be attributed to fewer women getting pregnant (both from birth control and from teenagers waiting longer than before to have sex) it’s also true, as conservative groups are arguing, that fewer women are choosing to have an abortion.

Why fewer are choosing to have an abortion is debatable. I would guess that restrictions on abortion are playing a role (waiting periods, in particular). But most of the plunge happened before the recent wave of laws took effect. I would guess that a declining social stigma against out-of-wedlock birth is playing a role, since that’s the one social ill. I would have guessed that increasing wealth was playing a role, but the abortion rate has continued to fall through the recession. I think it’s also possible, as some of the pro-life groups are arguing, that the ability to get sonograms and heartbeats at earlier and earlier gestational periods is causing women to rethink.

No matter how many times I turn this over, however, I can not find a government policy to credit for it. In the end, I think that society has changed, in one way or many ways, such that fewer abortions are happening. And no matter where you fall on the abortion issue, I think we can all agree that 700,000 fewer abortions every year is a good thing.

However it is has happened, it is interesting that our society has reduced its abortion rate down to where it was when abortion was still largely illegal. We are seeing that social change can be just as effective, if not more effective, than law when it comes to advancing a moral cause. This is a lesson worth savoring the next time someone come around with a crusade.

The Silence on the Gosnell

A couple of years ago, I blogged about the case of Kermit Gosnell, the abortion “doctor” in Philadelphia who was taking enormous sums to perform illegal late-term abortions in horrific conditions. The trial is under way now and the details emerging are horrifying for anyone. And the response of the media is … silence:

Infant beheadings. Severed baby feet in jars. A child screaming after it was delivered alive during an abortion procedure. Haven’t heard about these sickening accusations?

It’s not your fault. Since the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell began March 18, there has been precious little coverage of the case that should be on every news show and front page. The revolting revelations of Gosnell’s former staff, who have been testifying to what they witnessed and did during late-term abortions, should shock anyone with a heart.

A Lexis-Nexis search shows none of the news shows on the three major national television networks has mentioned the Gosnell trial in the last three months. The exception is when Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan hijacked a segment on Meet the Press meant to foment outrage over an anti-abortion rights law in some backward red state.

The Washington Post has not published original reporting on this during the trial and The New York Times saw fit to run one original story on A-17 on the trial’s first day. They’ve been silent ever since, despite headline-worthy testimony.

The networks have found time to cover the Jodi Arias trial extensively. But a case where a doctor butchered third trimester fetuses in an illegal and revolting practice? Hey, what’s Bieber up to?

I can understand that the details are horrific but … that’s never stopped the media before. They may not want to dip into the water of the abortion debate but … they have no problem talking about every anti-abortion law the Republicans propose. And, as I said in my previous post, this isn’t really about the abortion debate.

Now maybe you could argue that part of the horror wouldn’t have happened without the ban on late-term abortions, which made women seeking them go to Gosnell. But you’re not going to find many people who agree with you. Late-term abortion bans are in place in 36 states and have been upheld by the Supreme Court. The ban is, in fact, perfectly consistent with Roe, which only forbad states from outlawing abortions in the first semester. A ban on partial birth abortion was passed by by veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress. And Gosnell appears to have also violated the BAIPA, which was passed by voice vote in the House and unanimously in the Senate. There is simply no twisting of the politics that could produce a situation in which Gosnell’s actions were remotely legal, even if we had nine Democrats on the Court.

(I would add that none of those European Wonder States we are supposed to imitate don’t allow third trimester abortions either. In fact, most have more restrictive abortion laws than we do.)

So what is it? Are they afraid that recalling the grisly details might remind the American public of what a gruesome procedure abortion is? Are there not enough pretty people and risque sex involved? Does the case just cross some line of brutality that no one wants to think about?

The media should be talking about this. They should be talking about dangerously unregulated abortion clinics. They should be talking about doctors who break the law. Doing so does not make you some crazy pro-life zealot. I’m pro-choice and I’m horrified and enraged by what happened in this case. Reporting on this doesn’t make you a Republican. Report on this makes you … a reporter.