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Kevin ClarkeJune 25, 2019

On June 12, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, signed the Illinois Reproductive Health Act into law, “making Illinois the most progressive state in the nation for women’s reproductive rights,” according to his celebration of the event on Twitter. The law “ensures that women’s rights in Illinois do not hinge on the fate of Roe v. Wade or the whims of an increasingly conservative Supreme Court,” he wrote. “In this state, women will always have the right to reproductive health care.”

The new law removes restrictions on abortion late in pregnancy and nullifies criminal penalties for physicians who perform late-term abortions. It repeals Illinois’ partial birth ban, and it expands insurance coverage for abortion and contraception.

Describing it as “an extreme measure” that allows “for the abortion of unborn life at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason,” the Catholic Conference of Illinois condemned the I.R.H.A. on May 28 as a “grave tragedy” and evidence of a “collective moral failing.”

Just a few weeks before and about a thousand miles away in Louisiana, another Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, signed into law a measure that makes nearly all abortions in his state illegal once fetal cardiac activity is detected, adding Louisiana to the list of mainly Southern states that signaled the desire to overturn decades of abortion policy in the United States over the course of just a few weeks this spring. Louisiana joins five other states—Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and Kentucky—that passed “fetal heartbeat laws” in 2019 which, if upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, would essentially outlaw abortion after six to eight weeks.

While the sudden rush of limiting legislation has cheered many advocates within the prolife community, some worry that the rush to ban or restrict abortion could backfire.

Limits on abortion after 18 to 22 weeks of gestation in other states were passed this year, and on May 15 Alabama passed what is perhaps the nation’s most controversial new abortion law, a near-total ban on abortion at any stage of pregnancy except in the case of a fatal fetal abnormality or lethal risk to a woman during pregnancy. The new law includes no exceptions for rape and incest. The Alabama ban makes terminating a pregnancy a crime punishable by 10 years to life in prison for the provider and is set to take effect in November but would only be enforceable if a Supreme Court decision overturns Roe.

Nationally abortion rates have been reaching historic lows and significant percentages of Americans continue to express support for restrictions on abortion as pregnancies approach fetal viability. While the sudden rush of limiting legislation has cheered many advocates within the prolife community, some worry that the rush to ban or restrict abortion could backfire. Others wonder how prepared U.S. communities are to step in to assist women with unplanned or medically problematic pregnancies should Roe be abruptly overturned.

Pro-choice blowback
Moves to restrict abortion have provoked a pro-choice blowback. The Catholic Conference of Illinois reported that the I.R.H.A. “gained steam” in response to pro-life legislation passed in the South. And Vermont joined Illinois in early June in declaring abortion a fundamental right.

Both states have followed the lead of New York, which expanded abortion access in January. In Maine, legislators voted to require public and private insurance companies to cover abortion and allowed medical professionals who are not doctors to perform the procedure. Other states are considering legislation that would similarly protect abortion rights should the Supreme Court overturn its own precedent in 1973’s Roe v. Wade; these measures would nullify previous abortion laws that have been unenforced for decades and lift even the partial late-pregnancy limitations on abortion that are allowed under Roe.

What the flurry of new laws means practically speaking is hard to say. Unlike new state restrictions on abortion, which can only go into effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, laws that would tend to expand abortion access go into effect immediately. But rates were already comparably higher in many of the states which passed “reproductive health” initiatives. New York has declared abortion a fundamental right and lowered barriers that had been set per Roe at 24 weeks, but the state’s already liberal abortion laws meant it had the highest rate in the nation at 29.6 per 1,000 women in 2014.

Commenting via email on the “very positive trend” of state moves to limit abortions, Kat Talalas said she was pleased to “see so many states moving forward with pro-life legislation.” Ms. Talalas is the assistant director for Pro-Life Communications at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

“Even as new state laws face challenges, they reveal the powerful truth that 46 years after Roe v. Wade, abortion is far from being a decided issue in this country,” she said. “We have great hope for the future of the pro-life cause, and if nothing else, these legislative victories and battles expand public consciousness and lead many to reexamine their views on abortion.”

“Even as new state laws face challenges, they reveal the powerful truth that 46 years after Roe v. Wade, abortion is far from being a decided issue in this country.”

Not all members of the nation’s pro-life community perceived the new legislation as positively.

Charles Camosy, a bioethicist, author and professor at Fordham University in the Bronx, wonders if pro-life high-fives might be premature. Careful to note that he was not arguing about principle but strategy, he said, “I am pretty frustrated with the overconfidence” generated by certain victories at the state level. Mr. Camosy worries that the “overreaching” of some of the legislation has drained momentum just as the pro-life movement was strengthening in the American cultural mainstream.

“We don’t even have to persuade most Americans anymore, they’re already there,” he said, citing Gallup polls that find more than 70 percent support for abortion restrictions after 12 weeks, limitations that would put the United States generally in line with abortion laws throughout Europe.

The broad expansion of abortion rights in New York, in fact, seemed to take many New Yorkers by surprise; the Reproductive Health Act pulled down barriers to abortion beyond the 24-week viability cut-off established by Roe v. Wade. Some New Yorkers and people around the country were shocked by what they perceived as an unseemly celebration of the new law.

In Albany a standing ovation followed the R.H.A.’s passage through the state House and Senate on Jan. 22, the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling. It was signed that same evening by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who ordered state office buildings and monuments, including the One World Trade Center spire, lit up in pink “to celebrate this achievement and shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow.”

Virginia’s thwarted attempt to pass a similar recoding of abortion rights was most memorable because of Governor Ralph Northam’s ham-handed defense of the bill. During a radio interview, he seemed to approve the near infanticide of fetuses delivered alive during late-term abortions. A Knights of Columbus/Marist survey taken just days later found a sharp decline in the percentage of those who would describe themselves as pro-choice; many interpreted that decline as a rebuke to New York’s pro-choice triumphalism.

The conversation shifts
After the passage of the New York law, “there was a real opportunity to make the discussion about late-term abortion,” Mr. Camosy said, an opportunity that is perhaps being lost as pro-life supporters celebrate so-far-unenforceable near-bans on the procedure. Advocates pressing for unrestricted abortion rights “want to do things that everyone disagrees with,” Mr. Camosy said, “but now we are talking about abortion being illegal to the point of conception and with no exceptions for the health of the mother or sexual assault.”

After the passage of the New York law, “there was a real opportunity to make the discussion about late-term abortion,” an opportunity that is perhaps being lost as pro-life supporters celebrate so-far-unenforceable near-bans on the procedure.

“Do you really want the story to be about 11-year-old girls who were raped by their uncles?” he asked. “This is not the conversation we want to have. I think it plays into Planned Parenthood’s hand.”

Even as new laws restricting abortion rights have generated headlines, they will not take effect without court challenges. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Federation of America have promised vigorous resistance to Alabama’s new restrictions and fetal heartbeat laws, which they describe as de facto bans on abortion. But those court challenges are exactly what some legislators hoped to provoke, as a way of pushing the issue of abortion back to the Supreme Court and giving the court an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Kate Ott, a professor of Christian social ethics at Drew University in Madison, N.J., who has campaigned for abortion and L.G.B.T. rights, said people in pro-choice activist circles had long anticipated this spring’s legislative action.

Pro-lifers, she said, have taken a page out of the playbook used by advocates of L.G.B.T. rights and same-sex marriage. “It was well known that pro-life, anti-abortion activists were going to use that exact same strategy to get to the Supreme Court and try to overturn Roe v. Wade,” she said.

She sees the impact of both the Tea Party movement and President Trump’s unexpected ascendancy in 2016 behind the sudden “perfect storm” of legislative moves against abortion. Despite supporting abortion before running for president, Mr. Trump campaigned on a promise to oppose Roe v. Wade, winning him the support of many pro-life activists. By the time the bitter confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh ended in late September 2018, it was clear that his elevation to the court had in many minds triggered a countdown to a Roe challenge.

“The current Supreme Court provides some hope that it is better disposed than previous courts to reconsider and overturn Roe,” said Ms. Talalas. “Whether or how it might do so is anyone’s guess. Should this happen, the pro-life movement will respond in much the same way that it has for the last 46 years: by working to ensure that women have life-affirming support and alternatives to the violence of abortion and to ensure that unborn children enjoy the same civil and human rights as every other human being.”

But Steven Millies, the director of Catholic Theological Union’s Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry in Chicago, is not confident that a challenge to Roe v. Wade will materialize anytime soon. “[Chief Justice John] Roberts has tried too hard to steer the court through these partisan currents that have been swirling around them to simply overturn Roe instantly,” he said. He believes a lengthy chipping away at abortion rights will be the more likely course set by the court.

“The argument is about the extremes, which tells me this is really more about a political fight, probably having more to do with the upcoming presidential election than it really has to do with abortion at all.”

In fact, he believes this latest outbreak in the culture war over abortion is not really about a possible overthrow of Roe at all. “One of the things that is striking to me is that from a perspective of law and medical science, abortion is a Week 6 to Week 23 question,” he said, “from about as soon as a woman can notice she is pregnant reliably down to Week 23, when a baby can survive on its own.

“It’s a very narrow window that we would be discussing if we really were talking about abortion,” Mr. Millies said. Instead, “we’ve got one side which is really focused on expanding the access to abortion into the latest part of the pregnancies, and you’ve got the other side, which is concerned with the moment when the fetal heart starts beating, with the moment of conception.”

But, he said, “the argument is not about Week 6 to 23. The argument is about the extremes, which tells me this is really more about a political fight, probably having more to do with the upcoming presidential election…than it really has to do with abortion at all.” Mr. Millies described it as the “same sad burlesque that this abortion debate has been for the last 40 or 50 years.”

“The trouble is no one is thinking about how law needs to function in a pluralistic society in order to teach virtue, in order to communicate values either on the left or the right,” said Cathleen Kaveny, author of Law’s Virtues: Fostering Autonomy and Solidarity in American Society. Ms. Kaveny teachers both theology and law at Boston College. “They’re all thinking of law as a political football, and they’re trying to get it into one or other end zone as quickly as possible.”

“So what’s the purpose, what’s the game?” she asks of the new abortion restrictions. “The purpose...is not to actually govern,” she said, “but to get the issue to the Supreme Court.

“And what happens after that I think we are starting to see,” she added, referring to the diverging of abortion policy state by state in anticipation of a post-Roe future. “New York is going to have one set of laws and Missouri and other states are going to have others, and so how do we live in a divided country like that?”
 

The Divided States of America
In a speculative future where Roe is overturned, Ms. Kaveny foresees a kind of “abortion tourism” as women travel from states with strong restrictions to others with expansive abortion laws, a phenomenon already familiar to people in Missouri and Illinois.

Just three weeks before Illinois’s extension of abortion rights became law, Missouri Governor Mike Parson approved some of the strictest restrictions on abortion in the country. And continuing judicial and regulatory challenges to Missouri’s lone remaining abortion clinic mean that the state could become the first in the nation without an operating abortion facility since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Already, women from Missouri seeking to have an abortion have found it easier to travel to Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reports that more than 5,500 of the nearly 40,000 abortions conducted in Illinois last year were performed on women from out of state.

“The trouble is no one is thinking about how law needs to function in a pluralistic society in order to teach virtue, in order to communicate values either on the left or the right.”

And women from all over the country have long come to New York, dubbed “the abortion capital of America” by New York magazine. Thousands arrive each year in particlular before the doors of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Clinic in the city’s East Village, especially to obtain abortions in second and third trimesters. The phenomonen is so well established city council members voted on June 14 to allocate $250,000 to the New York Abortion Access Fund to assist out-of-state abortion clients.

“There will be a lot of abortion tourism and a lot of abortion through the mail because a lot of these are two-step pill programs—they’re medical abortions not surgical abortions,” Ms. Kaveny pointed out. “One of the characteristics of good law is that it can be effective. It’s not clear to me that the grave restrictions [on abortion] are going to be effective, at least some of the more extreme versions.”

America’s editors have argued in favor of returning the abortion question to the states but said that laws restricting abortion must be accompanied by equally vigorous support for families raising children and women struggling with pregnancy. If these most recent laws are to be upheld and Roe overturned or limited, such laws would need to be modified in order to be practically and justly enforced, the editors said, adding, “But the legislative work of answering the challenging moral questions about abortion will at least be possible.”

Mr. Camosy believes that “deeply important arguments” remain to be had about exceptions to abortion based on threats to maternal health, fetal viability or pregnancy caused by sexual violence, but “it would be so much better off if the pro-life movement just focused on where America already is,” he said. “[Most Americans] want abortion restrictions with a sexual violence exception, and that would be a huge achievement,” but pro-life activists celebrating abortion bans without exceptions “are making that outcome less likely.”

But Ms. Talalas suggested that any backlash to pro-life laws “will likely be offset by an equal or greater backlash to extreme pro-abortion laws and bills.”

“The majority of Americans strongly oppose state legislation which seeks to enshrine abortion up until birth or weaken existing protections for infants who survive an abortion attempt,” she said.

A recent poll suggests that Mr. Camosy’s concerns are worth heeding. In February, a Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus found adult Americans evenly split on abortion with 47 percent describing themselves “pro-life” and 47 percent “pro-choice.” But after weeks of headlines tracking states pushing substantial limitations on abortion, on June 4 an NPR/Marist poll found only that 35 percent of the adults surveyed described themselves as pro-life, while 57 percent embraced the pro-choice label.

“I’ve been in this debate long enough to know that it is cyclical,” said Ms. Ott, speculating that pro-life strategies that result in victories in state legislatures or the Supreme Court will quickly be countered by pro-choice advocates pressing for their repeal. Recalling efforts in the past to find common ground that were unable to overcome strong disagreements over matters like sex education and contraception, she has little expectation that a cultural compromise on abortion is likely now.

“Most people don’t like to say anything about abortion in any kind of context because they are afraid immediately they’re going to get shot at.”

The two sides even differ on how to interpret what could be understood as a positive development. Last year abortion rates declined to an all-time low since the procedure was legalized in 1973. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, for women ages 15 to 44, the abortion rate—11.8 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44—dropped 26 percent between 2006 and 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. (In 1980 the rate was 25 per 1,000 women—the highest figure the C.D.C. has ever reported. The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization “committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights,” records a higher rate of 29 per 1,000 that year. It reports that the rate in 2014 of 14.6 per 1,000 women was the lowest it has recorded.) Abortion rights advocates say the reduction is attributable to improved sex education and access to contraception, especially long-term forms of contraception, fostered by the Affordable Care Act.

But like others in the pro-life commmunity, Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, attributes the dropping rate to new state-level restrictions on abortion and a growing public sentiment against the procedure. “We know the annual number of abortions continues to decline,” she wrote in her introduction to the N.R.L.C.’s annual report on abortion in the United States.

“This drop in numbers can be traced to a number of factors,” she said, “but among them are the efforts by National Right to Life and its network of state affiliates to enact protective laws that provide legal protection to unborn children and offer hope and help to their mothers. These legislative efforts are at the very heart of our work, and they are one of the keys to ending abortion in the United States.”

As clinics closed and regulatory and legal restrictions increased, Texas indeed experienced a 28 percent decline in its abortion rate between 2011 and 2014, from 13.5 to 9.8 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age, according to Guttmacher. But critics of the new restrictions say women in Texas did not stop having abortions, but traveled to other states to have them or resorted to self-inducement methods not tracked in official tallies.
 

An ‘Impoverished’ Debate?
Coming at this latest civic reappraisal of abortion “from a seamless garment perspective,” Mr. Millies said, “if this were really about a serious engagement with the issue, we would be talking prenatal care; we would be taking about giving access to health care; we would be talking about a whole range of issues that are a little bit more on point than these legal challenges right now.”

“Even if pro-life demonstrators in the street get exactly what they want, what we know is that abortions will go on and it won’t be fixed.”

“For a debate of any moral issue in a liberal democracy, you need to get the people involved,” said Ms. Kaveny. “That’s part of what we need to do.” But that is not happening on abortion.

Ms. Kaveny argues that most Americans fall somewhere in a “large muddled middle” when it comes to abortion “and apparently they haven’t changed much over the last 40 years.”

Describing the country’s abortion debate as “deeply impoverished,” Mr. Millies said, “like so many of the most important moral problems that we try to deal with through politics, there is no real way to change hearts and minds except to try to change hearts and minds. If we could win the pro-life argument on its merits, there’d be no need to worry about what the law is.”

“I really wish that we could step back from the legal, political deadlock that’s been created and have conversations in our communities,” Ms. Ott said. “When you look at the actual stories and the data related to abortion, honestly, it doesn’t look like what either side depicts.

“It’s complicated. It’s messy and it is definitely tied up to other issues that we seem unable to also have conversations about with regard to health care access, education, abuse and violence toward women, and economic equality toward women.”

“If we could promote healthy births and healthy children, and parents who have stable prospects for employment and educating and caring for their children,” Mr. Millies said, “we wouldn’t have a lot of these problems. But instead we focus on this very narrow legal issue as though that will fix it.

“Even if pro-life demonstrators in the street get exactly what they want [in overturning Roe],” he said, “what we know is that abortions will go on and it won’t be fixed.”

That speculative day after an overturning of Roe would indeed mean new challenges. Many of the states where abortion restrictions or prohibitions would come into force are led by Republican governors and Republican-led legislatures that have been ideologically opposed to the kinds of social services some argue are critical in helping women confronting unplanned or difficult pregnancies to bring them to term.

Asked if the church should be pressing for the creation or restoration of social services and maternity support programs in states that outlaw abortion, Ms. Talalas said, “The Catholic Church makes the largest commitments to charitable causes of any private source in the United States.

“The church’s many ministries help families in need receive access to compassionate, life-affirming services including housing, health care, education, food security and other material supports.”

She reiterated points made by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. In late May, expressing support for the cascade of new restrictions being passed in the South, he said, “Every single human life has value.” He called the trend of states passing abortion restrictions “a very encouraging move toward ensuring that our society cherishes unborn children and their most basic right to life.”

“The pro-life movement has always had two critical goals,” he added, “increasing support for mothers and children and eliminating the tragedy of abortion…. As we celebrate these pro-life legislative victories, we reiterate our commitment to supporting all mothers with the care and resources they need. The church stands ready to help and welcome them.”

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Crystal Watson
2 years 11 months ago

Women choosing abortion is a constitutional right and over 70% of the population wants Roe to remain on the books. I don't believe even this conservative-rigged Supreme Court will overreach on this issue, which means that those states which are essentially banning abortion will have their laws overturned. Banning the right to an abortion and replacing it with money for child-bearing won't work ... this isn't The Handmaid's Tale.

Michael Bindner
2 years 10 months ago

Civil rights law is not a matter of opinion, Roe is safe. There is no going back to the state power under Plessy.

Scott Cooper
2 years 10 months ago

I’m sorry, Ms. Watson, but how is abortion a “constitutional” right?

Crystal Watson
2 years 10 months ago

The Supreme Court recognized that the right to abortion is a fundamental liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution - Roe v Wade.

Nora Bolcon
2 years 10 months ago

Once again Pro Life's desire to limit or restrict or illegalize in any way abortion is a remedy that only causes more abortions in every single continent in the world and in every country. Pro Life therefore equates to more death of the unborn and dramatically more deaths of women. The bishops have know this for over a decade and did not care 10 years ago any more than they care now because they don't care about the unborn and they many it would seem have an almost hatred of women. How else could they support these laws and constantly push them at our government leaders and our church members, knowing the results? Facts not feelings should be what we follow. The facts are we are at an all-time low for abortion in our country in large part due to our liberal abortion and birth control laws. Change these and we will become like South America's mostly Catholic Countries with the strictest abortion laws in the world and the highest abortion and maternal death rates to match them. Facts not feelings - Reality not Catholic fantasy.

I have pasted the below FACTS many times on these threads before but since talking to Pro-lifers is often like talking to a sack of rocks - I will put down again - Who know's maybe some priest or bishop will decide to discern from the obvious that Pro-life is Pro-death until it backs away completely from trying to limit abortion access everywhere in the world.

From Guttmacher: Abortion and Birth Control Stats.
(Notes from my other research on this topic - bottom)
REGIONAL INCIDENCE AND TRENDS:
• The highest annual rate of abortion in 2010–2014 was in the Caribbean, estimated at 59 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, followed by South America, at 48.
The lowest rates were in Northern America, at 17, and Western and Northern Europe—at 16 and 18, respectively.
• Across regions, Eastern Europe experienced the largest decline in the abortion rate, from 88 in 1990–1994 to 42 in 2010–2014. Despite this decline, there is a persistent gap in rates between Eastern and Western Europe (42 vs. 16) likely reflecting lower use of effective, modern contraceptive methods in Eastern Europe.
• The overall abortion rate in Africa was 34 per 1,000 women in 2010–2014. Subregional rates ranged from 31 in Western Africa to 38 in Northern Africa. There has been little if any change in abortion rates in these subregions since 1990–1994.
• For Latin America, subregional abortion rates range from 33 in Central America to 48 in South America. Rates have increased slightly since 1990–1994, but not by statistically significant amounts.
• Abortion rates in Asia have also fallen since 1990–1994, although not significantly. Asia’s subregions all have rates close to the regional average of 36 per 1,000 women.
• Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. When countries are grouped according to the grounds under which the procedure is legal, the rate is 37 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age where it is prohibited altogether or allowed only to save a woman’s life, compared with 34 per 1,000 where it is available on request, a nonsignificant difference.
• High levels of unmet need for contraception help explain the prevalence of abortion in countries with restrictive abortion laws.

What I have researched from other appropriate sources agrees with Guttmacher but also indicates the below information on this subject:
The World Health Organization Research agrees with the Guttmacher Research. Their results are almost identical.
However, neither the W.H.O. or Guttmacher can give us a solid conclusion, due to lack of evidence, as to what happens when countries offer easy access to quality birth control but make their abortion laws stricter. This is due to the fact that most countries either are lenient on both issues or they are strict on access to both abortion and birth control.
We could make some confident speculation, based on the global evidence that does exist, that in countries, currently, where laws are strict for both abortion and birth control or where both are criminalized, that were these countries to loosen up laws on birth control access alone and not on abortion, the abortion rates would come down more, and likely closer to where the Western and developed nations are at. However, these countries are not necessarily or likely to get quite as low as the western, industrialized, countries since there does exist evidence that the mere difficulty of access to abortion alone lends, especially in certain cases, to higher abortion rates by itself.
Unfortunately, in the countries where the laws for abortion become much stricter than in the past, such as may exist in the U.S. for the future, the amount of abortions could increase quite a bit even if birth control access remains easy and free. One of the reasons this is true is due to the fact that, in these countries, many women who get pregnant in their later years, 40s or older, often now seek to get an amnio to see if their fetus is healthy. They can only get this during the late part of the 3rd month or beginning of the fourth month of their pregnancy. With stricter laws, some of these women may decide they don't want to take the chance the fetus is unhealthy or has downs syndrome, and instead may opt to get an early abortion thru more easily, anonymously obtained, although perhaps illegally obtained, abortion pills. These pills become not an option in later months, and testing would put women in a position to not be able to deny they are pregnant, publicly, if they wait, so this puts the women at risk they could be charged with a crime if abortion becomes illegal. (Please note: I am not suggesting this is right or moral or Christian behavior but only that the reality exist and I personally know quite a few women who would fit this category, today, in the U.S. despite anyone's opinions or beliefs)
A horrible side effect of the above situation is this: 50% of all downs fetuses naturally miscarry in the first trimester, and 40% that make it to the 2nd trimester miscarry then. Fetuses that have other severe health issues often miscarry, naturally, within the first three - four months of pregnancy as well. The amount of downs fetuses that become born infants are very small amounts even for older women. This illness is still quite rare overall. This means many women could end up aborting perfectly healthy fetuses, by the thousands, each year, or more, to avoid the possibility of having an unhealthy baby, and this number increases if women already have other children. One way some western countries avoid this issue is that they keep early abortions legal and allow later abortions into the 4th and 5th month if the fetus has tested unhealthy or the woman's life is in real danger if she remains pregnant. Many married older women think they aren't fertile when they still are and stop taking birth control.
Lastly, there is no existing evidence that easy access to abortions, even throughout pregnancy, equates to more abortions, in any country, that has free and easy access to birth control. In fact, countries with easy access to abortion and also free easy access to birth control have the lowest rates in the world, and these rates lower even more when those countries offer mandated longer paid maternity/paternity leaves, free quality universal health care, and free, quality, public daycare. (The only exception to this seems to be Sweden. Despite Sweden's similarly ease of access to both abortion and birth control and it's offering many of the benefits listed above that other Western European Countries offer, it still has quite a high abortion rate. However, there is no evidence suggesting that tightening Sweden's existing laws would lower its rate for abortion and doing so would likely only raise it even higher.)
The evidence we do have seems to indicate, on a global scale, that despite what seems reasonable in theory, i.e., harsh abortion laws will lower abortion rates, is completely false when put to the test in reality. It just may be that easy access to abortion, and lenient abortion laws, help more to reduce abortion rates than having strict laws against abortion, in any country. Perhaps some morality issues simply cannot be solved by force or threat but must instead be dealt with by respecting the situation of the people involved and helping them out of their place of fear or desperation, with physical and material protections and emotional and spiritual support. We could do much more perhaps by encouraging a choice for good, and for life, without attempting to control women. We could choose to help women in real ways, instead of trying to corner them into doing the Christian thing.

Tobe Ezekwenna
2 years 10 months ago

I love this comment. Lots of numbers and facts, and plenty that I didn't know before. I'm far from an expert on this issue, but I agree that we should follow the example of Western European countries and increase access and birth control. And let the abortion rates fall.

Rudolph Koser
2 years 10 months ago

No one including pro-choice people are in favor of abortion. The Church doesn't help when it won't look at birth control again and which the majority of Catholic women use. Where birth control is available abortion goes down and then there are the poor. Women who have the means will always be able to get abortions regardless of what the law is. States that are run by the Republicans are only pro fetus not pro-life. Look at their health, education, and poverty statistics. The Church needs to lobby more about the totality of pro-life and not just fetuses. You don't see any demonstrations about the children on the border from the Bishops. What is wrong with the Church?

Roland Greystoke
2 years 10 months ago

Without The Right To Life, all others rights are meaningless.

Frank T
2 years 10 months ago

If a woman cannot control her own body, she has no fundamental rights at all. For anything.

Michael Bindner
2 years 10 months ago

The right to life is against the state, not women.

Judith Jordan
2 years 10 months ago

Roland Greystoke
This is an easy mantra the right wing manufactured so they can ignore all the other moral issues. A statement by Sister Joan Chittister, Order of St. Benedict, best describes my position.

"I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is."

Michael Bindner
2 years 10 months ago

The day Roe will be heard, let alone overturned, will not occur. The death if a thousand cuts will not happen either. Trap laws are being overturned and restrictions on even Down's abortions were disallowed. States have absolutely no power to reset the terms of citizenship either way. Partial Birth abortion will remain illegal and Congress, but not the states, can further restrict abortion to a point earlier than viability. The Indiana v. Planned Parenthood decision was decided per curiam, which means that there are fewer than four justices interested in changing either Roe or Casey. Indeed, only Thomas is anti-abortion. The last four appointees of either party consider abortion law settled. Voting Trump was no more likely to end abortion than a vote for Clinton. That bishops are saying otherwise is a scandal.

The answer for reducing abortion is a $1000/month/child refundable tax credit with pay. Everyone from NOW and PPUSA to USCCB and Catholic Charities should support that. If the GOP does not agree, it should go away.

Crystal Watson
2 years 10 months ago

Cheap and easy access to efficient contraception would be the best way to lower the abortion rate, but the pro-life movement is against birth control as well as abortion. They don't really care about reducing abortions, they care about controlling women's bodies and behavior.

Vincent Gaglione
2 years 10 months ago

I would like to approach this issue from the point of view of religious freedom, an issue that has become another hallmark of Catholic public discussion along with abortion.

The current situation in Indianapolis, where the bishop reserves the right to call all teachers in Catholic schools “ministers” of the Faith and therefore obliged to live public lives in accordance with Catholic doctrine, presents a challenge. As a privately funded institution the Catholic Church would argue vigorously if any public laws were imposed to infringe on that right.

At the same time Catholic Bishops and citizens pursue the absolute abolition of abortion on any and all medical professionals and institutions in the USA. Assuming that the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade is upheld, how is our activism not an infringement on the religious beliefs of those who do not share our convictions about life commencing at conception?

I am not so sure of our political wisdom, as I write this on a day when a picture of an immigrant likely-Catholic father and daughter dead in the Rio Grande is publicized and a detention camp of likely-Catholic immigrant children in south Texas is described as less than healthy and safe, and the nation’s Bishops and Catholics have raised no loud voice in moral outrage as they singularly do about religious freedom and abortion.

Michael Bindner
2 years 10 months ago

This is a question of law and power, not belief. States are trying to restore power on all issues, including marriage equality. Overturning Roe brings an end to social progress.

Inside the Church there is a religious freedom question. Under Dignitatis Humanae from Vatican II, we are no longer bound to impose Catholicism on non-Catholic nations or enact doctrine into law in Catholic ones. While I am sure the Council Fathers did not intend abortion rights be covered in this, they essentially are. Denying Communion to Catholic voters and officials is therefore a violation of dogma.

Michael Bindner
2 years 10 months ago

Speaking Truth about the fact that Roe cannot be overturned and that doing so would bring back Plessy or that single-payer kills Hyde and mostly that NLRC is perpetrating a GOP fraud is stating reality, not promoting abortion. The Church does not understand the rule of law.

Colin Donovan
2 years 10 months ago

So, basically, let's just get the buses running on time (health care, baby care, especially women and infants care, poverty, education etc.), while going slowly in opposing the greatest injustice of our time, lest the culture of death take offense and react negatively.

This approach supposes that having fixed all of societies *other* ills, the pro-abortion movement will suddenly capitulate. More likely, having re-established the dignity of the unborn (a first principle of the common good), it will be possible to effect societal change regarding the poor, the immigrant, etc.. Provided we only conceive this issue as a problem of parties and not principles, of strategy and not rightly ordered justice, nothing will change.

Scott Cooper
2 years 10 months ago

Thank you Colin Who Is A Man from Scott Who Is Also A Man and Who Is Also An Adoptee through the Catholic Church and Who Has Skin In The Game here.
I agree wholeheartedly with you that this is a question of justice. What a grave injustice it is for a mother, and sometimes with the consent/encouragement/coercion of the father to treat this separate human being as properly to be disposed of as he or she see fit and for any reason—gender, disability, inconvenience included.
The numbers of Americans for or against abortion do not matter just as the number of Americans for or against slavery during the first 80 or so years of this Republic did not matter then. Both institutions, both industries were and always will be wrong, especially in a society and nation dedicated to certain inalienable rights, with the right to life being the first.
And please spare us the anger at the Church, the Bishops, the Popes, and those of us who have chosen to follow the Way, which Christ told us would not be easy and certainly not convenient.
And there are a great multitude of us, Catholics, other Christians, followers of other religions, and atheists who believe in a consistent ethic of life and in the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.
So, please do not, along with the nun whose quote is always used by pro choice advocates, paint us with the broad brush of being “pro-birth” only.
There is a Truth to most things in life and certain things are simply unjust and wrong according to this. Some of us follow this according to the Church Christ gave us and some follow this because they know what is right and wrong.

Judith Jordan
2 years 10 months ago

Scott--
You think women get abortions because they don’t want the inconvenience? This is always one of the greatest insults toward women. I suggest you expand your reading about women.

Yes, Jesus taught us the way. Please tell me, what did Jesus say about birth control and abortion. There are over 2,000 verses in the Bible about poverty, but pro-birth people seem more focused on abortion.

I am delighted that you said that pro-choice advocates always quote Sister Joan Chittister. I see her quoted so seldom that I was not aware of her being frequently quoted.

Sister Joan does not paint everyone with a broad brush. If you pay attention to her statement, you see that she refers to those who oppose abortion, but also oppose tax payer programs to help the children. You said you believe in a consistent ethic of life. If so, then you know that means supporting life at conception and also supporting tax payer programs that help women and children and that reduces the abortion rate. You should be applauding Sister Joan as she is talking about a consistent ethic of life.

Lisa Weber
2 years 10 months ago

This endless discussion of abortion and the effect of the discussion on our politics needs to end. A consistent majority of 55-60 percent of Americans want abortion to remain legal. The only question to be resolved is where the limitations should be drawn. The antiabortion faction wants to impose minority rule on this country because they will not accept that they are a minority of voters. The GOP uses the antiabortion voting bloc to advance its agenda of giving ever-greater power to the wealthy. The stupidest thing the GOP could do is actually overturn Roe v. Wade.

Judith Jordan
2 years 10 months ago

Lisa Weber--
Your comments are excellent and insightful.

Alan Johnstone
2 years 10 months ago

From the other side of the Pacific and from within a culture fighting very hard to limit the spread of the culture of death, the USA situation has looked quite clear.
You are on the verge of Pagan decadence as the official religion.

Premarital and extramarital heterosexuality become the norm, sexual violation of babies, children and immature adolescents common, perverted sexual practices paraded in the streets and carnivals, gluttony the norm so that obesity is such a killer the average life span is falling for both men and women, murder commonplace in cities large and small, mass shootings in schools and concerts.

And, from these pages, evidence that the rot is spread to people calling themselves Catholics.
Do not be surprised when a wrath of God appears as storm and tempest and earthquakes and fires and floods and plagues.
I will not.

Judith Jordan
2 years 10 months ago

Alan Johnstone----
You said, “You are on the verge of Pagan decadence as the official religion.” The U. S. Constitution does not permit an official religion. Therefore. U. S. citizens may practice any religion they want, including “Pagan decadence.”

As for God appearing as storms, etc. that sounds like something man would do…God is not petty.

Judith Jordan
2 years 10 months ago

Does anyone actually believe that Trump gives a hoot about abortion one way or another?

Crystal Watson
2 years 10 months ago

He's on video saying he is pro-choice, even when it comes to partial-birth abortion ... https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/trump-in-1999-i-am-very-pro-choice-480297539914 ... I don't think he gives a hoot about anything but money and power.

Opting Out
2 years 10 months ago

That Roe v Wade even passed is testament of the utter failure of Baby Boomers as a generation. Why else are the comments on this forum the same 5-6 individuals whose character count outnumbers the original article? The amount of time they spent trolling this forum is catastrophic and shows how little they regard their mandate to accompany their neighbor on the street as opposed to spending hours on the internet. Killing life in the name of (fill in your favorite straw man) is proof that the US Bishops failed as pastors of a nation.

Less than 1% of abortions come from women raped yet to hear pro-aborts they would have you believe is happened every day, shill and histrionics by no other name. The canard of “woman’s body” is as persuasive as “it is my gun and I will do as I choose”. When a life can be extinguished with such cavalier remarks as “a difficult decision” then clearly it is not difficult. Terminating life is never acceptable. Ever. Josef Stalin killed 60 Million, Hitler killed 6 million, American women have killed untold millions since Roe but they insist we genuflect at their “holy choice”. Stare decisis is no better than Sharia law or sola scriptura. Get over it. Overturn Roe v Wade now just like Pace v. Alabama, Adler v. Board of Education, Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v Fergusson, Wolf v. Colorado, Oregon v. Mitchell and many other overturned SCOTUS decisions.

Carl Kuss
2 years 10 months ago

“Even if pro-life demonstrators in the street get exactly what they want [in overturning Roe],” he said, “what we know is that abortions will go on and it won’t be fixed.”

This supposes that all protesters want is to overthrow Roe versus Wade. an assumption which is prejudiced. The Supreme Court should not legislate, but likewise it should not create rights which do not exist. To create such rights authorizes oppression. There is a positivist conception of law behind this whole problem, a conception according to which not prescribed by law means okay. Then one needs to recognize that besides law there needs to be a whole series of social commitments (informed by the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity). Abortion is something that no woman wants, but which many are forced into by an anti-feminist society, by the Cult of Money from which the Culture of Death springs, and by a culture that despises the poor and the little ones. What do we have to say about that? Once one understands this one will understand how to regulate abortion (This regulation addresses the medical profession, and does not suppose overbearing bureaucratic and ideological control over medical practice, but the opposite: just as no woman wants an abortion, so too no doctor should want to realize abortions, something so opposed to the foundations of medical practice. Laws are an expression of the spirit that is inside men. The pro-life movement needs to study the foundations of democracy. Democracy and the pro-life principle are children of the same God.

Carl Kuss
2 years 10 months ago

“Even if pro-life demonstrators in the street get exactly what they want [in overturning Roe],” he said, “what we know is that abortions will go on and it won’t be fixed.”

This supposes that all protesters want is to overthrow Roe versus Wade. an assumption which is prejudiced. The Supreme Court should not legislate, but likewise it should not create rights which do not exist. To create such rights authorizes oppression. There is a positivist conception of law behind this whole problem, a conception according to which not prescribed by law means okay. Then one needs to recognize that besides law there needs to be a whole series of social commitments (informed by the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity). Abortion is something that no woman wants, but which many are forced into by an anti-feminist society, by the Cult of Money from which the Culture of Death springs, and by a culture that despises the poor and the little ones. What do we have to say about that? Once one understands this one will understand how to regulate abortion (This regulation addresses the medical profession, and does not suppose overbearing bureaucratic and ideological control over medical practice, but the opposite: just as no woman wants an abortion, so too no doctor should want to realize abortions, something so opposed to the foundations of medical practice. Laws are an expression of the spirit that is inside men. The pro-life movement needs to study the foundations of democracy. Democracy and the pro-life principle are children of the same God.

Crystal Watson
2 years 10 months ago

**"Abortion is something that no woman wants, but which many are forced into by an anti-feminist society, by the Cult of Money from which the Culture of Death springs, and by a culture that despises the poor and the little ones."**

Pro-life people pretend to see women as victims pushed around by a cruel society, by bad boyfriends, or by evil doctors, but for the most part women are actually free moral agents who make their own choices for their own reasons. We see through this pro-life strategy and we don't need you to save us from anything - just stop trying to take away our constitutional right to an abortion.

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