The following article is appearing in the current issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity (January/February 2003, pp 15-16).
One of the most important abortion mantras is “make abortion safe, legal and rare.” It is legal, but it is not necessarily safe, and it is certainly not rare. The United States has the highest legal abortion rate among Western nations. Over one million children are aborted in the United States every year.
It is not rare among American women. Since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in the United States in 1973, over 40 million abortions have been performed. In 1973, out of 46.8 million women of childbearing age (ages 14-44), there were 745,000 abortions. By 1996, with 60.4 million women of childbearing age (ages 15-44), there were 1,366,000 abortions.
Abortion is not rare even among teenagers. The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world. Four in ten young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 – nearly one million a year. In 1977, 1.7 percent of younger teens (ages 15-17) and 4.3 percent of older teens (age 18 or 19) obtained an abortion.
Abortion is not rare among women who are not married. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the abortion rate for unmarried women is four times greater than that of married women. Six million American women become pregnant every year – almost half of them are unmarried. Of those three million unmarried pregnant women, almost half have an abortion and almost half become single mothers. Very few of them marry the father of their child or give the child up for adoption.
Most of the unmarried women are living with the man who fathered their child, yet they do not even consider marriage and never consider giving the child up for adoption to a couple on the long lists of infertile couples desperate to have a child. Ironically, young women today are told that marrying because you “have to” or giving a child up for adoption is “cruel.” It is not considered cruel to abort a child that they do not want.
Indeed, in some circles abortion is considered a “brave” and “courageous” action because nothing could be worse for a child than being “unwanted.” And, of course, it is argued in the same circles that nothing could be worse for a woman than to be saddled with a child that is “unwanted.”
NO CHOICE AT ALL?
Actually, something is much worse – discovering that a man is willing to have sex with you but is unwilling to marry you, even when that sex results in a pregnancy. The truth behind the data is that abortion is overwhelmingly a choice of unmarried, rather than married, pregnant women. Over and over, crisis pregnancy center personnel hear unmarried women say that their “boyfriend” or “partner” is making them have an abortion.
Choosing to have the baby is not an option the women believe is available to them when a boyfriend or lover is pressuring them to have an abortion. Often the man tells the woman he has gotten pregnant that if she does not “get rid of the baby,” he is “out of here.”
Increasingly, abortion is less a desperate teen’s impulsive “solution” than a twenty-something’s calculated “choice” between a man she wants and the baby he refuses to accept. In 1996, women ages 20 to 24 had over 400,000 abortions, about one-third of the total performed that year. These women are, of course, supposed to be responsible, mature, and informed. Yet, their behavior has a high likelihood of producing pregnancy, and the men they are involved with are poor candidates for marriage and even worse candidates for fatherhood. Even so, a lifestyle of casual sex is commonplace, and the rate of cohabitation is continuing to rise dramatically.
Though the median age for women’s first marriage is now in the mid-twenties (it was 21 in 1973 and 24.8 in 1996), contrary to the feminist myth, women don’t have as many choices as they have been led to expect. Among cohabiting or sexually involved couples, the man determines if and when the couple gets married; a couple does not get married until the man is ready, regardless of how much the woman might desire marriage. Even when confronted with a pregnancy, too many men are unwilling to make a commitment or take responsibility. In this respect, too, trends have changed dramatically. In 1960, 60 percent of unmarried pregnant women married the father of their baby before the baby was born, in 1994, only 23 percent did.
And abortion is least rare among separated women. One author writes that they are at the highest risk for having an abortion, and in fact they are twice as likely as all women to have an abortion.
As the United States approaches the thirtieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this so-called women’s rights issue is thoroughly entrenched in American culture, and special interest groups are now calling for abortion to be a “human” rights issue the United States should promote around the world. But nagging facts just will not go away. Abortion is not rare, and it has not been proven safe for women.
Abortion has made it easier for irresponsible men to turn their backs on women and the children they conceive. As we have seen, it has encouraged women into sexual relationships that deny them the security and commitment they need from the men with whom they have involved themselves. Women are left to deal with the consequences and, often they are not even aware of the worst complications of their choice to abort.
One of the major consequences of abortion, of course, is death – not just the baby’s, but also the mother’s. Pro-abortion rhetoric focuses on the danger of “back-alley” abortions, but legalized abortion is not safe. Abortion is four times deadlier than childbirth. Infertility can be another consequence. Evidence is mounting that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer – commonly called the ABC link. Eleven out of 12 studies of American women report an increased risk of breast cancer after having an induced abortion, while 25 studies out of 31 conducted around the world indicate increased risk. A British study found that the risk of cancer was increased, on average, by 30 percent by one induced abortion.
Emotional and psychological consequences are less easy to quantify, but abortion-related emotional and psychological problems are not uncommon after an abortion. In fact, so many women have these problems that they have earned a medical name: post-abortion syndrome.
There is good news: between 1994 and 1998, the number of abortion clinics in the United States decreased by over 40 percent simply because not enough doctors were willing to provide the abortions and fewer women were asking for them. More and more doctors are refusing to perform abortions. Some medical schools are seeking legal provisions that require abortion training because too many medical students are declining to become licensed for the procedure.
Other good news is the increase in crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). While abortion clinics are closing because of the decline in business, CPCs are springing up everywhere. In 1980 there were only 500 across the nation. By 1990 there were 2,000, and now there are at least 4,000.
Yet, abortion is still not rare, not even safe, and prominent voices continue to support it not only as a right but also as good for society. “Abortion is good child policy,” proclaimed a recent column in the Chicago Tribune. The author argued that New York City’s crime rate is lower today because unwanted babies had been eliminated through abortion eighteen years ago. “The only children we ought to produce,” he said, “are wanted children.”
Nothing is heard more often these days than that certain policies and programs must be enacted “for the children.” Yet America’s culture is no longer child-friendly when the most Americans hope for is that abortion will be safe, legal, and rare, and when so many assert that children who are not wanted ought to be aborted. If you slaughter the innocents, you destroy the future.
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, a Senior Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, was appointed by President Bush to the United States Delegation for the United Nations Children’s Summit, May 2002. She is co-author with Beverly LaHaye of A Different Kind of Strength (Harvest House) and author of BLI’s report, Gaining Ground: A Profile of American Women in the Twentieth Century (2000).