Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Few Words On Abortion


As if to prove my point, anti-choicers have declared Saturday "The Pill Kills Day." Really, you guys have no argument whatsoever. None.


My post on Dr. Tiller’s murder brought the usual wackjobs out of the woodwork. One commenter made the ridiculous claim that Tiller gave a woman a late-term abortion because she wanted to attend a rock concert. I mean, come on, that defies common sense. Why not just come out and say it: you think women seeking abortions are irresponsible sluts.

Similarly, my suggestion that anti-choice and pro-choice voices should find common ground on the issue of birth control and support for unwed mothers was met with scorn. One commenter claimed that birth control is available, free, at every corner drugstore in America.

The things one learns when they listen to wingnuts. The Guttmacher Institute’s fact sheet on publicly funded contraception services has more information on that.

I think both left and right can agree that fewer abortions are a good thing; I think the left wants to see that happen without demonizing the procedure or the women who get it, while the right has done a really good job of attaching all sorts of stigmas to abortion. It’s why we’re “pro-choice” because “choice” is the issue here; no one is “pro-abortion,” it’s not like it’s a party, no one looks forward to having an abortion just as no one looks forward to any medical procedure but by God if you need one you sure want to have access to it, and you want to make sure it's safe and legal and all that.

Toward that end, I direct people to Glen Stassen’s article in Sojourners, What Actually Works? It’s ironic that Sojourners, a progressive Christian magazine, focused on abortion for its June magazine , since Dr. Tiller’s murder has put the issue front and center this month. I guess there really are no accidents.

Stassen is a professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. He talks about the Teenage Parent Program in Louisville, KY, which offered pregnant teens and teen mothers ob/gyn care and counseling, child care while the girls attended classes, instruction on baby care, and other support.
A University of Louisville School of Medicine study reported that, surprisingly, unlike typical teenage mothers, TAPP’s teenagers produced healthy babies averaging normal birth weight. Premature babies are highly expensive when they require intensive care and are more likely to have learning problems and medical problems later in life. TAPP prevented that. It was enormously cost-effective.

And 99 percent of these girls chose not to have an abortion.

The problem, as always was funding:

Medicaid and the State Maternal Health Division, supported by federal funding, paid for most of the ob/gyn clinic. Ominously, in 2002 federal funding for the ob/gyn services was canceled, and the state could not afford it alone. The ob/gyn program is no longer available to students without insurance or Medicaid, and no nurses are teaching any more.

I don’t see anti-choicers calling for increased funding for programs like TAPP, or distributing condoms in schools; in fact, so-called “pro-life” legislators seem to be the ones throwing up road blocks to helping teens access birth control with all of their parental notification laws. "Pro-family" groups like James Dobson's are always the ones screetching the loudest about how they don't want their taxes paying for that.

The Stassens also have a very compelling personal story, as well. Stassen’s wife contracted German measels while 8 weeks pregnant. The Stassens chose to carry the fetus to term, knowing that German measels is devastating in the first trimester:

But we did not have an abortion because we had hope we could cope.

Our son David was born with a heart that failed in his first month; odds were against his survival. He has had a dozen operations, two on his heart. He did not speak, mumble, or chew until he was 4 and a half years old. He has brain damage. He is legally blind. But we had enormous support from church members, medical personnel, the Kentucky School for the Blind, and caring teachers, and we had medical insurance and a job. Now David translates theological books from German to English for leading publishers and for researchers.

That is why I worried enormously when the Bush administration cut back crucial supports for mothers and babies. I suspected it would increase abortions among those who did not have the kind of resources our family had.

Stassen was right.

The Stassens had "hope they could cope," but not everyone does. Our healthcare system is in a shambles, and conservatives are throwing up roadblocks to reform. This doesn't just affect the poor, even if you are employed, even if you have insurance, you're paying more and more for your family's coverage.

Meanwhile, there are cries of "Socialism!" and "Fascism!" when President Obama suggests returning the marginal tax rate to where it was under Ronald Reagan. States like California are going broke, Tennessee's budget is strapped. The only solution we hear from conservatives is to cut taxes and cut government spending.

I'm trying to decide what a family is supposed to do in this situation. The costs of caring for a disabled child are astronomical. Who is supposed to help? If the government can't because of budget cuts, and the cost of healthcare keeps going up, what are you supposed to do when you find out you're pregnant, you've contracted Rubella, and you're going to give birth to a child with brain damage, heart damage, and neurological damage?

What are you supposed to do? How could you dare judge someone who chooses to terminate a pregnancy like this at eight weeks? Do you think shouting "murderer" is what Jesus would do?

Stassen concludes:

The Obama administration is expanding health care insurance for children and is developing plans to provide access to health insurance for all of us, is working to get the economy revived, and is supporting programs to curb unintended pregnancy. If abortions reduced significantly during the Clinton years, stayed flat during the Bush years, and reduce significantly during the Obama years, what is a consistent pro-life person like me to conclude about which approach actually works to reduce abortion rates?

What, indeed.

It seems to me that "what actually works" is not the issue for most of the anti-choice crowd. Because we know what actually works, and yet they lobby against it anyway.

They've lost sight of their mission. They don't want to reduce the number of abortions, they want to overturn Roe v Wade. These are two very different issues. One is a social issue and one is a political one. They strike me as interested in the politics of abortion, and not the least bit interested in the human side of it. They have mobilized for the wrong cause, and it is this which makes their movement so dishonest.