By Kathy Ostrowski, Kansans for Life Legislative Director
A snarky taunt hurled at pro-lifers through the years has been, “If you are against abortion, just don’t have one!”
With the Guttmacher Institute study concluding that abortions are at a 30-year low, as well as a lower national abortion rate and ratio, it appears that a lot of women, especially younger ones, are doing just that– not having abortions. Moreover, these women rejecting abortion are not just located in states with protective pro-life laws, but across the nation, according to Guttmacher.
There are several things to unpack here, with examples from my state of Kansas.
First, our opponents use Guttmacher’s report to scoff at the benefit of pro-life state legislation. They argue (1) that the number of abortions went down in states without pro-life initiatives; and/or (2) the data Guttmacher analyzed came before the upturn in state pro-life laws enacted during 2011-2013.
This seems to imply that no laws were in place benefiting women prior to 2011, which is absolutely untrue.
The much-reported increase in state pro-life laws did not start with the election of a majority of state governors who were pro-life, beginning in 2010.
When Guttmacher (and Slate’s William Saletan) downplay the role of pro-life initiatives in reducing the number of abortions they conveniently ignore a whole bevy of initiatives which have had the effect of helping women choose life. They include parental involvement laws, limits to tax-funded abortion, support for pregnancy assistance, and requirements for ultrasound viewing and women’s right to know information, to name just five. (There is a passing reference to a 24-hour waiting period.)
Electing a pro-life governor in 2010 was very helpful because so often pro-abortion governors would scuttle pro-life legislation with a stroke of their veto pens.
From Kansas’ perspective, despite the efforts of Kathleen Sebelius when she was governor, the number of pregnancy assistance centers rose exponentially and we elected greater numbers of ‘proudly’ pro-life legislators. More protective laws could not be enacted –or older ones properly enforced– until we elected Gov. Sam Brownback in 2010.
Second, our opponents attribute fewer abortions to fewer numbers of women getting pregnant in the first place. They tout this as obviously a victory for contraception, either because women “were making conscious decisions to avoid pregnancy” (in the words of the authors, Rachel K. Jones and Jenna Jerman) or because of the use of ”long-acting” contraceptives.
But even if this were true, this still doesn’t answer the fundamental question raised by the abortion ratio for 2011.
The abortion ratio essentially compares the number of abortions to the number of births. According to Guttmacher, there were 21.2 abortions for every 100 pregnancies ending in abortion or live birth in 2011. This is also the lowest ratio since 1973, the first year Roe was in effect. The ratio was 30.4 in 1983 and was as high as 25.1 as recently as 1998.
So even if fewer women get pregnant, that doesn’t answer the question why more of them are choosing life.
A pro-life mindset is at work nationwide–as witnessed by polling showing pro-life self-identification at 48%. This is the result of a strong national pro-life movement that educates at so many levels and continues to challenge the “normalization” of abortion. The natural by-product is more pro-life laws.
However, Saletan claims pro-life laws are “a waste of time” that “can’t possibly affect women in states without such laws.” To agree with that would be to assert that women in abortion-friendly states don’t have an awareness of what’s happening elsewhere, don’t use the internet, and do wholly adopt the mentality of their state legislature to their personal lives. Not likely.
Saletan discounts not only the success, but the relevance of the pro-life movement for changing the culture, because “legal moralism is losing its grip on this country.” It just isn’t the case, he says, that “by enacting legal restrictions in one state, you’re affecting the moral convictions of women in other states.”
Really? If pro-life laws are a waste of time, why are they so desperately fought by abortion supporters–and to a nationwide audience? Why did national pro-abortion media sources work so hard (to name just a few examples) to
- portray Kansas and other states adopting Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection acts as legislating against medical science;
- deny the confirmed biological connection between induced abortion and breast cancer; and
- mischaracterize a Kansas law disallowing wrongful birth lawsuits as ‘support for doctors to lie to pregnant women’?
Obviously, these media attacks are meant to dissuade individual women from learning the truth and to scare other states from adopting pro-life laws.
The Kansas “Women’s Right to Know and See” law–passed in 2009!—gave women not only the option to see their child’s ultrasound taken inside the abortion clinic, but also created a state health department-run website.
But only under a pro-life governor in 2011 was the law properly implemented so that the website included real-time sonography of the developing unborn child.
As a result we think Kansas has the best pregnancy information website in the nation (www.womansrighttoknow.org).
And building on legislative intent to fully inform women, the Kansas’ 2013 Pro-Life Protections Act includes the “first-in-the-nation” requirement that the link to the state “Woman’s Right to Know” abortion information website be positioned on an abortion clinic’s home page.
Pro-life laws not only have concrete effects on abortion decision-making, they have a “teaching” function that extends beyond state lines.
Abortion interests don’t want that link displayed on their home page. They want it tucked away somewhere on their website so that while few women will see it, the abortion clinic can claim it was accessible.
Can such links to gestational information with active 4-D Ultrasound films affect women in states without this law? Yes–thanks to the Internet.
This is just one example. Guttmacher (and Saletan) can insist that pro-life initiatives have no (or very little impact) but common sense and experience says otherwise.
Collectively, pro-life laws are contributing to our nation’s ever decreasing choice for abortion.