To Stop Abortion, Don’t Look to the Anti-Abortion Movement


Last week's report from Minnesota on 2006 abortions had a wealth of significant information in it, but the most striking for both abortion rights and anti-abortion advocates was the fact that the overall number of abortions performed was up. Up 5 percent over 2005, and for minors, up 16 percent.

Now, those numbers sound dramatic, but they aren't necessarily. For example, in 2006, there were 793 abortions performed on minors in the state. In 2005, there were 682. That 16 percent jump turns out to be an increase of 111 procedures total. Not insignificant, of course, but also a small enough sample that this year's huge jump could be just a statistical anomaly, and next year could show a similar drop — and be no more significant.

Of course, there are other potential causes for the increase in abortions. Abstinence-based education was one potential reason cited by Sarah Stoesz, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. "We have data that show that abstinence-based education only works to delay the onset of first intercourse by a few months, but makes it more likely for women to become pregnant and get STDs," she said. She also cited the increasing expense of contraception as a factor. But she noted, too, that it could be a "statistical blip" and cautioned that it was important to be cautious and careful in drawing any conclusions based on one year's statistics.

Whether you agree with Stoesz's position on abortion or not, that's a reasonable position to take. Identify some potential reasons for an increase, also recognize that the increase may not signify anything in particular and look for some areas, such as better access to contraception, that could have a positive impact.

The anti-abortion movement in Minnesota could have reacted the same way.

Its leaders didn't.

Instead, the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life issued a statement attacking Planned Parenthood for "open[ing] two suburban 'express' mall stores targeting young women with scented oils, candles and referrals to its St. Paul abortion center." That those two centers did not provide abortions but did provide contraception went unremarked by the anti-abortion group. They were too busy weaving an elaborate conspiracy theory in which Planned Parenthood sucks girls in by giving them access to contraception and uses that increased access to contraception (along with a few trinkets) to lure women in for a fun, exciting abortion. That contraception, if used, can greatly reduce one's risk of pregnancy is ignored by the anti-abortion advocates. After all, like any good conspiracy theory, you have to recognize that it's all going on at a deeper level than mere mortals can understand. Wheels within wheels, my friend. Wheels within wheels.

It's sad that the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life show such a lack of concern for limiting abortion. You would think if the organization were concerned about ending abortion that it would take the time to actually advance policy arguments aimed at ending abortion that were more substantive than "Planned Parenthood is just in it for the lucrative abortion market." But then, the MCCL would have to address how its own unwillingness to support increased access to contraception led to thousands of abortions in 2006.

The MCCL's biggest legislative accomplishment in recent years was the Women's Right to Know Act, which required that women be given a packet of materials to read through before their abortion that listed each method of surgical abortion in the most lurid detail possible. It also lists all of the known medical complications of abortion (and until recently, some, like increased breast cancer, that weren't true).

As the act's name implied, the MCCL was banking that the act would radically alter the debate, that women simply were too stupid to realize what abortion is or that invasive surgery has risk involved. Well, the act did possibly reduce abortions in 2006: 652 women received the packet and chose not to have an abortion. Whether all 652 would have had an abortion otherwise, of course, is debatable, but let's take that figure as the most favorable to the MCCL.

Let's say that instead of supporting a packet of at times misleading information, the MCCL had instead supported funding access to contraception for all.

In 2006, 65 percent of women seeking abortions had used contraceptives in the past but were not using them at the time they conceived. Now, obviously, some people are going to make mistakes with sex, so let's say that increased access to contraception would only reach half of those people. And let's say that the contraceptives have a 50 percent failure rate — far above that in the real world, but I'm trying to be fair.

Had 25 percent of those abortions been prevented by increased access to contraception, it would have reduced the number of abortions performed in 2006 by 2,283.

That's not something anybody on the abortion rights side would oppose. Contrary to the assertions of the anti-abortion movement, those of us who support abortion rights know that abortion is not particularly fun for the woman involved. We know that it would be better if there were fewer of them, because each abortion is a major surgery, and that's better avoided if it can be.

But while Planned Parenthood is trying to reach those women who can't afford contraception or don't have ready access to it, the MCCL is railing against the very effort, weaving insane conspiracy theories instead.

This is, of course, perfectly understandable. If the MCCL really cared about ending abortion, it would be working right there with Planned Parenthood to get contraception out to women everywhere. Instead, the organization has spent its time shaming and infantilizing women and let thousands of abortions go unprevented in the meantime. If I were in that position, I guess I, too, would rather blame a vast left-wing conspiracy than look in the mirror.

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  • invalid-0

    Let me get this straight…According to your perspective…Not having sex (abstinence) will get me pregnant and while having sex (PPs way with condoms, say) will not make me pregnant. Sounds like the same arguement I heard in the backseat of a Ford in highschool. I believe that stupid arguement then and became a teenage mom. BTW, I gotta ask…Is that line still working for ya? Evidently, it does for PP as they are the number abortion provider in the country over many dead bodies.

  • jeff-fecke

    95% of Americans have sex before marriage. The odds are overwhelming that any given person will have sex before marriage. Yes, abstinence has a 100% efficacy rate when practiced — but given that it's only practiced 5% of the time, it's not going to be the cornerstone of any sane attempt to reduce abortion.

     

    As I noted, contraception is not perfect, but it's better than unprotected sex — and remember, 70% of the abortions performed in Minnesota were the result of unprotected sex. Prevent even a quarter of those and you're stopping thousands of abortions each year in just one state.

     

    Alas, your argument tends to typify the anti-choice argument: simply note that if everyone would stop having sex, there wouldn't be abortions. Well, if everyone would stop driving there wouldn't be car accidents either — I tend to think it's okay that we decided to install seat belts and air bags instead of urging people to walk everywhere.

  • invalid-0

    You are falling for the trick of assuming that abstinence-only education leads to an increase in abstinent behavior. It does not. While abstinent behavior prevents pregnancy when used perfectly, abstinence-only education does not increase abstinent behavior. And when these teens do become sexually active, they aren’t prepared with knowledge about contraception.

    Note: Intending to be abstinent and then having sex without contraception (because you didn’t plan ahead or were ignorant about contraception or for whatever reasons) has a *high* pregnancy rate.

    In reality, teens–whether they are exposed to abstinence-only ed or comprehensive ed –will start having sex around the same age. (one exception noted below). Teens who plan to be abstinent and then have sex (without contraception) get pregnant and get STIs. There are several comprehensive sex-ed programs (like children’s aid society-carerra) tht have been associated with delayed onset of sexual activity (more abstinent behavior), reduced teen pregnancy, better use of contraception for sexually active teens, better use of condoms for sexually active teens.

    So, if your goals are abstinent behavior for teens or reduced teen pregnancy, or better contraeptive and condom use for teens who are sexually active–you should support this comprehensive sex-ed program and oppose all of the abstinence-only ed programs (none of which have been shown to be effective).

    -Lcubed.

  • invalid-0

    I grew up in the Bible belt in time when attitudes about sex were much more conservative than they are now. The sexiest thing around was the Sears Cataloge. There was no sex education in the schools, however ministers preaching abstinence did abound.

    The abstinance only logic would assume that as teenagers we were much less likely to have sex. WRONG In High School I was a walking, talking, 180 pound hormone. The primary thoughts that controled my mind were beer, fast cars, and sex, not necessaraly in that order. I lost my virginity at age sixteen and most of my cronies did so around the same age. The names of doctors and quacks that would perform illigel abortions were readily available, this was before the pill.

    More than one lass in my graduating class were more than a few months pregnent.

    In conclusion sex did occur in the good old days. It is my conclusion throgh life experience that abstinence only education is maddness.

    In case anyone would question my bonifides to make such opinions I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.

  • invalid-0

    In the real world of teenagers, impulse behavior is abundant. Good intentions go to the wayside in the moment of peer pressure and rampant hormones. It is beyond me why in this day and age of knowledge that we have people who think abstinance programs work. They don’t. These people live in a world that does not exist. I work with teens everyday and I can tell you first hand that the only way to protect our teens is by volumns of education through parents,schools and community. The consequence of impulsive behavior combined with abstinance programs is these teens are not properly prepared for the decisions that are made in the heat of the moment. Thus making them suseptable to pregnancy or std’s. With proper education from home, schools and the community as well as being prepared for that moment of impulsive behavior, we will be able to lower the abortion rate as well as the transmission of std’s. And in many cases, teens will make the right decision once they are educated.

  • invalid-0

    The use of birthcontrol while a right (I think so at least) is just a chemical means to prevent childbearing. (been there done that 4 X’s) An abortion done early is less poisonous if you are into natural foods. Using a canola device that is outlawed in the USA to take care of your period is a better way to stop the non enviornmentally safe use of pads, and all the other menstral stuff as well as a sure fire way to prevent those unwanted pregnancies. Just a couple of friend sharing a moment that all women and girls must go through and you have no male doctors or corporate entities selling waste to go into the local dump or the ocean off a barge if you live in NYC. Canolas are small pumps that draw the blood out of the vagina and were used by women back in the forties according to one old woman to whom I mentioned a N.O.W. film about it.

  • tyler-lepard

    …to tampons or pads is The Keeper (or The Moon Cup). Safe, legal, cost-effective and convenient!

  • http://www.nonviolentchoice.blogspot.com invalid-0

    I hope you’re not stereotyping all who identify as prolife rather than prochoice on abortion as necessarily, by definition, hostile or indifferent to the crying need for access to contraception, comprehensive sex ed, and anything else that actually prevents and reduces abortion.

    There is a problem with antiabortion groups being opposed to such measures, or remaining neutral about them.

    Yet something like 85% of prolifers support contraception, for one, even though our views are, frustratingly, not reflected in these organizations, or are even undermined by them.

    But some of us, with whatever resources we have, are trying to find solutions to this problem. I don’t have much to work with, personally, I wish I had a lot more money, time, energy, etc…..but I’m trying to do whatever I can by working with a nonprofit learning, health care/social service, and activism resource directory, and action-oriented blog (www.nonviolentchoice.info) that is devoted to relieving the root causes of abortion, publicizing both prolife and prochoice fforts to accomplish this, and advocating for what we call nonviolent sexual & reproductive choices (the “other” choices).

    Please don’t stereotype in this way, it gets in the way of working together for practical solutions on the many areas where we *do* agree. Just like the stereotype that prochoicers regard abortion as “fun” for women. Thank you.

  • http://www.nonviolentchoice.blogspot.com invalid-0

    I hope you’re not stereotyping all who identify as prolife rather than prochoice on abortion as necessarily, by definition, hostile or indifferent to the crying need for access to contraception, comprehensive sex ed, and anything else that actually prevents and reduces abortion.

    There is a problem with antiabortion groups being opposed to such measures, or remaining neutral about them.

    Yet something like 85% of prolifers support contraception, for one, even though our views are, frustratingly, not reflected in these organizations, or are even undermined by them.

    But some of us, with whatever resources we have, are trying to find solutions to this problem. I don’t have much to work with, personally, I wish I had a lot more money, time, energy, etc…..but I’m trying to do whatever I can by working with a nonprofit learning, health care/social service, and activism resource directory, and action-oriented blog (www.nonviolentchoice.info) that is devoted to relieving the root causes of abortion, publicizing both prolife and prochoice fforts to accomplish this, and advocating for what we call nonviolent sexual & reproductive choices (the “other” choices).

    Please don’t stereotype in this way, it gets in the way of working together for practical solutions on the many areas where we *do* agree. Just like the stereotype that prochoicers regard abortion as “fun” for women. Thank you.