Abortion literacy

Dave Andrusko of NRLC has been asking for examples of abortion illiteracy — things many people don’t know, but should if we’re to have a meaningful public debate. As he puts it:

But how can people participate in the abortion debate without a more-than-passing acquaintance with the basics? Indeed, if people know next to nothing about abortion–what it is, its impact on the wider culture, what led us to where we are today, to name just three– how can they meaningfully participate in the public square?

My question to you is this: what precisely are those basics? Put another way, if you were able, what fundamentals would you weave into the intellectual warp and woof of our culture in order to raise the public’s literacy on abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia?

I figured that his readers would cover the more usual topics such as the facts about fetal development, so here’s what I sent in:

* I’ve run into people who believe that Roe v. Wade ruled that the right to privacy is so broad as to include the killing of a person in the case of abortion. That is not what the Supreme Court ruled. They specifically stated that if the unborn child were considered a legal person, that the right to privacy would not apply. They then decided that the unborn child is not considered a legal person with human rights.

* Most prominent “right-to-life” politicians aren’t actually running on a “right to life” platform. They’re instead running on a “pass laws against abortion” platform. On the national level, they propose to overturn Roe vs. Wade by appointing “originalist” or “strict constructionist” justices who will rule that since the right to abortion (and/or the right to privacy) is not specifically spelled out in the Constitution, that it’s up to states to decide. This would then allow states to pass laws against abortion even without declaring the unborn child a legal person with human rights. Of course, it would also allow states to keep unrestricted abortion.

No major presidential candidate in either party ran on a platform of getting the unborn child declared a legal person with human rights. [I later amended this to note that Mike Huckabee did.]

* The abortion issue is not a battle of the sexes. There is no statistically significant difference between the views of men and women on abortion.

* Most people oppose the legality of most abortions. The cases in which a majority of people believe abortion should be legal account for fewer than 10% of abortions. When they claim to have a “pro-choice majority”, abortion advocates are counting people who believe that abortion should be legal in some circumstance as “pro-choice”. When people with the same beliefs run for office, they are “anti-choice extremists”.

* About 80% of self-identified pro-lifers are pro-contraception.

* Countries in Western Europe where children receive comprehensive sex education, and where responsible use of contraception is encouraged and expected, have achieved much lower rates of abortion and teenage pregnancy than the United States.

* Pro-life is not strictly a conservative, Republican, Christian, or religious position.

He hasn’t written the follow-up column yet, so he might still be taking submissions. You can reach him at daveandrusko@hotmail.com if you have any suggestions.

5 thoughts on “Abortion literacy

  1. When they claim to have a “pro-choice majority”, abortion advocates are counting people who believe that abortion should be legal in some circumstance as “pro-choice”.

    Are you saying that people who believe abortion should be allowed when the mother’s life is in danger would have been counted in the “legal in some circumstances” group? So then if you or I had taken part in those surveys, we would be labeled “pro-choice”.

    If that’s the way they classify people, then the only people who would count as pro-life are people who would demand that a woman must continue her pregnancy even if it’s killing her. That conclusion would then justify a claim that all pro-lifers are heartless woman-haters.

  2. 1. Roughly 90% of pre-legalization abortions were done by doctors (most of the rest by nurses and midwives) who simply started plying their trade legally with the change in law. The main thing legalization changed was who is HAVING abortions (roughly ten times more women) and how seriously we as a society take abortion quackery (It used to be murder; now it’s all a civil matter.)

    2. There is virtually NO “consultation with her doctor” in the vast majority of abortions. Women are put on an assembly line, with only rudimentary counseling that’s more often just a sales talk, no discussion of the risks specific to them, and no meeting with the doctor whatsoever until they’re already prepped and in the stirrups.

    3. Most women submitting to abortions don’t WANT abortions; they want other options. They’re going through with the abortions because their social networks won’t support them in giving birth.

    4. Women continue to die from unsafe abortions — they’re just legal now. We don’t know how many because although the CDC publishes numbers, they are only counting those who slip through the barriers. (This is akin to setting up a bushel basket in the middle of an orchard, counting the apples that land in it, and claiming that you’ve counted every apple that fell in the entire orchard.)

  3. Joan: they don’t all do it explicitly. For instance, some just ask strategically worded questions like “Do you think abortion should be a matter for a woman and her doctor to decide?” — implying that abortions are generally done for medical reasons — and then point to the results as proof of the “pro-choice majority”.

    Others do what I was describing — they simply lump together the “legal in all circumstances” and “legal in some circumstances” groups, and claim them as “pro-choice”. Here’s a really blatant example: http://feminist.org/research/report/94_eight.html

    Whether they do it explicitly or not, there’s no way to get to a “pro-choice majority” without including many people who say that abortion should be legal only under very limited circumstances, a view that these groups would decry as “anti-choice” in a political candidate.

    Of course, there’s also no way to get to a “pro-life majority” without including those same people, whom many pro-life groups would not consider pro-life. Mostly, I think America has an “I don’t like abortion, but I also don’t want to think about it very much” majority.

    Christina: those are great examples.

  4. I’d add that something most Americans aren’t aware of is that abortion is more heavily legally restricted in the majority of Europe than in the US. For example abortion is illegal in Ireland and only available on demand during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece and Italy. Next time someone tells you that restricting late term abortions is the first step on the road to complete female oppression point out that Sweden has a gestational limit of 18 weeks and far superior women’s rights than the US.

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