Abortion Rates Rise Among Poor, Thanks to State Funding

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., Director of Education & Research, National Right to Life

Yesterday the folks at the Guttmacher Institute published an article online that will appear in the June 2011 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology which contained good news: abortion rates dropped 8% across the board from 2000 to 2008. 

Those who’ve examined abortion totals over the past several years probably already had some idea that trends were heading that direction. But it is good to see these results confirmed in a national report by an organization that started out as a special affiliate of Planned Parenthood.

But that wasn’t all that the researchers at Guttmacher, Rachel K. Jones and Megan L. Kavanaugh, wrote about. The big news of their report— titled “Changes in Abortion Rates Between 2000 and 2008 and Lifetime Incidence of Abortion”– is that abortion rates declined for all groups of women except the poor. This conclusion was what virtually all     the news accounts focused on.

What I will spend the next few minutes explaining is as simple as it is important: of course abortion rates will go up in any group if the state pays for the abortion. At the federal level that is the lesson of the Hyde Amendment agreed to by both pro- and anti-life groups: more than a million people are alive today who wouldn’t be if there were no Hyde Amendment restrictions on federal funding of abortion.

Okay, back to the new study. 

Jones and Kavanaugh go into great detail to determine at how various demographic groups fared over the time span and how changes in their abortion rates compared.  Fortunately, the abortion rates dropped for nearly every group (see chart), with the conspicuous exception of women on the lower economic rungs.

That’s when Guttmacher’s agenda becomes clear. Jones and Kavanaugh  want to somehow lay this at the feet of pro-lifers.  They put it this way:

Abortion is becoming increasingly concentrated among poor women, and restrictions on abortion disproportionately affect this population.

Whether they mean to imply that laws limiting abortion caused abortion rates to increase among this group, or to argue that their high rates meant women in this group would somehow particularly suffer from these laws in the future, is unclear. There is no real defense of or elaboration on this charge in the remainder of the article.

But the buried assertion begs for further explanation.  It is hard to fathom how common sense regulations, such as legislation that requires that parents be informed of their minor daughter’s pending abortion, or right to know laws, which tell women about abortion’s risks and alternatives to abortion which are better for both them and their unborn children, or ultrasound legislation, which helps a woman see her developing child, could have precipitated such an increase or will somehow make things more difficult for poor women in the future.

If anything, the overall 8% downward trend in abortion rates seem to show that such laws, along with the practical assistance offered by pro-life pregnancy care centers, are enabling more women to choose life for their unborn children.  That the abortion rate for certain economic segments of the population is increasing speaks volumes about the aggressiveness of the abortion industry which exploited these women during these difficult economic times and somehow managed to turn a profit from their misery than anything else.

In seeking to understand why this there was growth in the abortion rate of poor women, it is crucial to understand that several of the nation’s states – California, New York, and at least a dozen others – pay for abortions for poor women.  So while the abortion industry saw declines among other demographic groups, it just happened to see increased rates among precisely that group of women whose abortions were being funded by a number of states including two of the largest.  Not a big surprise, really.

The abortion industry likes to argue that high abortion rates are due to a lack of government funds for “family planning,” but the record seems at odds with that assertion.  Giants of the abortion industry like Planned Parenthood receive hundreds of millions of dollars in “government grants and contracts,” increasing their take of taxpayer funds nearly every year, yet abortions there have steadily increased at rates that very nearly match those increases in government funding (see my article in the April/May, 2011 NRL News).

Abortion does nothing to better these women’s economic situation.  The only one who ends up in a better economic situation is the abortion industry.   That’s why the abortion lobby fights not only defends state abortion funding, but also fights pro-life legislation and hassles pro-life pregnancy care centers with laws intended to put them out of business.

If more women choose life for their unborn children as a result of pro-life legislative initiatives and the sort of practical assistance offered by pregnancy care centers, the abortion industry knows that it will adversely impact their financial bottom line.

The report’s authors appear to want to somehow put the onus onto pro-lifers for the high abortion rates among poor women. But it is not pro-lifers who are selling them abortions. By ensuring that the states underwrite these women’s abortions, it is the abortion industry and its allies in a number of states who are directly responsible for the increase. This is true in general and especially so during a recession.

The statistics do show, however, that when women get truthful information about abortion, about its risks, about their developing child, about realistic life preserving alternatives that are better for both them and their babies, they are choosing life. 

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