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Monday, January 21, 2008

Abortions are Down -- So Let's Lie About Why...

It's the typical bad headline from the mainstream media. In reporting on new study by the Guttmacher Institute -- an organization that tracks reproductive health issues -- ABC News offers us "Why Abortions Are Down in America." Except, they don't really tell you why. As I say, typical.

See, the Guttmacher study tells us that "the U.S. abortion rate declined to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, continuing the downward trend that started after the abortion rate peaked at 29.3 in 1981" and that this marks "its lowest level since 1974."

In telling us "Why Abortions Are Down in America," ABC basically says, "Who knows?" Bait and switch, anyone? Still, it gives us a starting point by narrowing things down to three possibilities -- fewer abortion clinics, the success of phony "family planning clinics" run by anti-abortion activists, or better access to birth control methods and emergency contraceptives like Plan B.

The first doesn't seem to be supported by the facts. While there are fewer abortion clinics in the US than in the past, we're not seeing other signs that would accompany women without access to abortion. I've written about it before -- when women don't have access to abortion, maternal death rates rise sharply. This hasn't happened.

In fact, the study's lead author, Rachel Jones, "told NPR that though there is such a direct link in some regions, it doesn't account for the overall decrease in abortions. In fact, the decline in abortion providers is significantly smaller than in previous years," according to Salon.

The second seems unlikely as well. Back to ABC News:

Opponents say more women are coming to grips with the horror of abortion, in part because of the increasing numbers of so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which set up near abortion clinics and offer services like ultrasounds to convince women to keep their babies.

"This is a very powerful tool," anti-abortion activist Chris Slattery said of ultrasounds. "Now it's much harder for them to actually think of destroying a child."

The problem with this explanation is that it requires that women be freakin' morons for it to work. "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" are basically places that pose as clinics, but where the entire focus is to convince women not to have an abortion. The methods are a textbook example of passive-aggression and are hopelessly hamhanded:

Anti-Choice "Crisis Pregnancy Centers": A Personal Account, Planned Parenthood:

...The woman then ushered me into another room, saying that a nurse would do an ultrasound for me. I wasn't sure what to expect; I'd never had an ultrasound and I didn't know much about the procedure. But even if I had, I couldn't have been prepared for what came next.

After administering the ultrasound, the nurse turned the screen to show me the sonogram results. She said, "This is the fetus." Below the photo of the fetus, someone had typed in the words "Hi Mommy!" I couldn't believe it.

I was totally shaken but I tried to play it cool and appear calm. The receptionist made an appointment for me to come back in two weeks, and I thanked the woman for her "help." I didn't want to make a scene because I felt so unsafe -- and I didn't want them to know that I was considering terminating the pregnancy.

Not only didn't it work in this case, but it's really hard to see how it could work in any case. If it weren't so incredibly dismissive of women's intelligence, it'd be hilarious in its absurdity. She didn't leave that office convinced that she'd give birth, she left seriously creeped out. The gross dishonesty of these phony clinics can only leave women feeling insulted. There's no way I can credit these people with any decrease in the rate of abortion. It would just make no sense at all. The average woman isn't that dumb.

So, by the process of elimination alone, we're left with increased availabilty of birth control. The problem here is that the anti-abortion movement is against that, too. The American Life League spells it out -- while attempting to spin their position as the exact opposite of what it is. In a page on "Countering Pro-Abortion Arguments," we're shown their answer to "The pro-life movement is really a group of religious fanatics whose goal is outlawing contraceptives."

The pro-life movement's legislative goal is passage of the Paramount Human Life Amendment. This would establish legal personhood for all human beings from the moment of fertilization.

The fact is that some so-called "contraceptives" are abortifacient in action and kill already existing human beings (e.g., the "pill," lUD, RU486). Of course, we are against these devices. Every abortion kills a human being, whether accomplished chemically, surgically or by other means.

So not all contraceptives, right? Just the most effective ones.

Well, no. Not really. It doesn't take long for them to prove they are "a group of religious fanatics whose goal is outlawing contraceptives." ALL tells us, "We cannot condone contraceptives as a 'solution' to any troubling facet of human sexuality. In virtually all areas, the contraceptive culture and mentality must be viewed as part of the problem," and that, "The acceptance of contraception fostered acceptance of abortion. Margaret Sanger, who desired legal abortion, foresaw this over 50 years ago."

In fact, their literature shows a shocking -- and likely willfull -- ignorance of the facts. In answering the obvious conclusion that without contraception, people will still have sex, they answer, "Of course people are going to have sex! Lets be more specific. For clarity's sake, we should deal with premarital, promiscuous or 'at-risk' sex, not monogamous sex within marriage."

If we go back to the Guttmacher Institute, we see that "The majority of U.S. women who have abortions (61%) have children." The image of the unmarried teen, pregnant for the first time as the average abortion-seeker is a mythical one.

"We found that consideration of motherhood issues in abortion decision-making falls into two broad areas: responsibilities for existing children and the 'ideal' conditions of motherhood," says Rachel Jones. "Among those women with children, the most commonly cited reason for choosing to have an abortion was the concern that having another child would compromise the care given to existing children. Women felt that they were already stretched thin financially, emotionally and physically -- and they wanted to put the children they already had front and center..."

This is the problem with the anti-abortion movement -- it's not anti-abortion only. It's the Anti-Sex League. ALL tells us, "If people can be educated to use contraceptives, they certainly can be educated to abstain. Let's attack the true problem, promiscuity."

"Contraceptives increase promiscuity," they go on. "And promiscuity increases crisis pregnancies, abortions, AIDS victims and the prevalence of sexually transmitted disease. Not to mention adultery, divorce, rape, and child sexual abuse -- i.e., the overall decay of the family and our moral fiber."

None of which is true. All of this is just stuff they're pulling out of their butt.

Which gets me to the real problem with the anti-abortion movement and the religious right in general -- they lie. Often.

Imagine your thought processes if you were absolutely certain you were on God's side. Who would it be that was fighting against you? When your political and cultural enemies are the Devil and those who fight on the side of the Devil, what actions would you rule out? There's no reason to fight fair with Satan, since -- no matter what you do -- your cause is just and holy. You can lie and you can cheat, since you're not really fighting these poor, deluded forces of darkness -- you're saving them. If saving them from themselves requires you to make stuff up and lie, then making stuff up and lying is the most ethical thing you could do. You don't get an alcoholic to come over if you say you're going to stage an intervention -- you tell them it's going to be a party. If you have to trick people to get them to do the "right thing," then there's nothing wrong with lies.

So, with the news that abortions are declining, the best possible thing they can do is lie about why it's happening. But the problem here is that they're lying to women about what women think and what motivates them. It's hard to see how that's going to work. Where ABC News fails to tell us "Why Abortions Are Down in America," a little reasoning gives us the answer. Abortions are down because the reasons for abortion are now fewer. The widespread availability of contraceptives and reproductive health gets the credit, not a bunch of passive-aggressive religious whackos with made up "facts" and phony "clinics."

Women just aren't that dumb.


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