The abortion issue is something I usually stay away from, probably because I am pro-choice which means the law is currently on my side, so no need to protest, and because I think the issue hogs up too much attention during election campaigns. Like most pro-choice people I know, I am not enthusiastic about the procedure. I am pro-choice only because I think there are cases where medical advice, rational judgement and compassion may be a better route than an impervious, insensitive, one size fits all law. However, there is a perspective on the issue that I have been hearing about lately that I think is worth exploring.
There is statistical and confessional evidence indicating that the rate of abortions may have increased since Bush took office. I’ve looked at the
records and found that national statistics have not been recorded since 2001 (not sure why), but Dr. Glen Harold Stassen, a Christian ethicist and trained statistical analyst found some more recent state-level statistics.
Only three states report statistics through 2003. Kentucky’s abortion rate increased by 3.2% from 2000 to 2003, Michigan’s increased by 11.3% from 2000 to 2003 and Pennsylvania’s increased by 1.9% from 1999 to 2002. Dr. Stassen found 13 states that report statistics through 2002, of those, eight states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6% average) and five saw a decrease (4.3% average decrease). From these statistics he was able to conclude that under President Bush, the decade-long trend of declining abortion rates appears to have reversed. Stassen states that given the trends of the 1990s, 52,000 more abortions occurred in the United States in 2002 than would have been expected before this change of direction.
Stassen indicates that the abortions rate declined during the pro-choice Clinton administration (by 12%) and increased under the pro-life Bush administration – proof, perhaps that words are cheap and direct abortion policies are ineffective. Being one of many Americans that would like to see a decrease in abortions but would rather the blundering government stay out of difficult family decisions, I think this presents an opportunity to look for alternative ways to decrease the number of abortions.
Dr. Stassen reveals three basic causes of increased abortion rates…
First of all, there is the personal finance effect of the Bush administration. “Not since Hoover had there been a net loss of jobs during a presidency until the current administration. Average real incomes decreased, and for seven years the minimum wage has not been raised to match inflation. With less income, many prospective mothers fear another mouth to feed.” According to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Web site, two thirds of women who abort say they cannot afford a child. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that 12.6 million American families either didn’t have enough food or worried about someone in the family going hungry last year. Making sure all children in America have enough to eat would be a wonderful place to start reducing the number of abortions.
Secondly, there is the marital effect. “Men who are jobless usually do not marry. Only three of the 16 states had more marriages in 2002 than in 2001, and in those states abortion rates decreased. In the 16 states overall, there were 16,392 fewer marriages than the year before, and 7,869 more abortions. As male unemployment increases, marriages fall and abortion rises.” Again, according to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Web site, half of all women who abort say they do not have a reliable mate.
Finally, there is the health insurance effect. “Since 5.2 million more people have no health insurance now than before this presidency – with women of childbearing age overrepresented in those 5.2 million – abortion increases.”
Of course this is also a slam on Bush politics… something that can’t happen without a barage of heated counter challenges from those tightly wound conservatives. Most of the counter arguments I’ve seen center around a dispute over how Stassen uses the statistics and I have to admit that the statistical side of his analysis is incomplete and perhaps a little slanted. For instance he compares the average post 2000 abortion rates for only 16 states to the pre-2001 rates for the entire country and he concentrates on rates, which can mean anything, rather than the actual number of abortions. (The CDC records the abortion rates as number of abortions per 1000 births and interestingly, in the last year recorded by the CDC, 2001, the rate increased where the actual number of abortions decreased.)
But then again, it’s not that Stassen was picking and choosing which states to base his analysis on; the 16 states he concentrated on where the only states that reported any numbers. You have to deal with what you can get and he did make that clear and if you can get past the hang up about the statistics and move on to what I think is the more important part of his research, the “reasons” provided by the aborting mothers, then maybe you can see the connection between the economic well being of Americans and the unfortunate option to abort.
As far as the argument that Bush-style politics induces more abortions, I think it comes down to common sense… I mean what choices do you leave if your economic policies take away a mother’s ability to provide for a child? Of course adoption always comes up, but if the booming economy of globalized investment continues to leech the American economy of wages then the waiting list for babies will shrink. I just don’t see the synergy. What I see in the conservative path is a release valve in the form of a unfortunate reversion to illegal abortions, which will not save the lives of unborn children, but it should reduce the number of abortions officially reported, which would look very nice for conservative political statistics.