The right kind of “common sense abortion policy” works to both help women and save the lives of unborn children

By Scott Fischbach

Editor’s note. The following appeared in The Hill’s Congress Blog in response to “Common sense abortion policy” written by Marianne Mollmann.

 In her May 31 post, Marianne Mollmann claims that “policy-wise, abortion is easy.” She says abortion should be legal — because the law doesn’t affect the incidence of abortion anyway — and we ought to address the root issues that cause women to “need” abortions in the first place. Mollmann is mostly off the mark.

She is right that we should address the reasons women have abortions. Look to the states for guidance.

Minnesota passed a law in 1998 to acquire various statistics relating to abortion, including information on why women choose abortion. We have analyzed those reasons each year and worked to meet the needs of women facing difficult pregnancies. In 2005 we passed the Positive Alternatives Act to provide grants to pregnancy care centers offering help and support for pregnant women and new mothers in need. Women are receiving crucial medical attention, nutrition, housing assistance, adoption services, education and employment assistance, child care help, and parenting education and support services.

Tens of thousands of Minnesota women have been helped by Positive Alternatives. It is an example of a bipartisan, abortion-reducing measure that people on both sides of the abortion debate can support.

Mollmann is wrong about the effect of abortion restrictions on the incidence of abortion. Consider abortion history in the United States. A detailed 1981 analysis estimated an average of 98,000 illegal abortions each year in the 32 years preceding total legalization in 1973. After legalization, the number of abortions skyrocketed to more than one million per year, peaking at 1.6 million.

Other countries have seen similar results. Mollmann uses a few select foreign examples (with unreliable illegal abortion estimates) to deny the link between abortion law and abortion incidence. But she fails to take into consideration low per capita income, social pathologies, and other factors that can affect the successful implementation of abortion restrictions. (In any case, her specific data is very questionable: The United Nations offers no estimates of the abortion rates in Argentina or Peru, while the 2005 abortion rate in Chile, which prohibits abortion, was 0.5 per 1,000 women aged 15-44. Conversely, the 2008 rate in the United States, which permits abortion on demand, was 18.9.)

More relevant are the kind of modest abortion limitations now under consideration in state capitols and Washington, D.C. Here Mollmann is dead wrong. A wealth of social science data demonstrates that these measures — such as informed consent laws and public funding bans — are effective in reducing abortions. For example, a 2011 study published in State Politics & Policy Quarterly, entitled “Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era,” concludes that pro-life legislation passed at the state level has led to a significant decline in abortions.

Minnesota enacted the bipartisan Woman’s Right to Know law in 2003. The law ensures that women are informed of basic abortion facts and alternatives prior to undergoing an abortion. Together with Positive Alternatives and other abortion-reducing efforts, it has led to a 13 percent decline in abortions in Minnesota since 2002.

A “common sense abortion policy” works to both help women and save the lives of unborn children.

Scott Fischbach is executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, National Right to Life’s state affiliate.

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