Reducing abortion

A while back, Dave Budge drilled into a post I wrote about a recent proposal by Sens. Clinton and Reid to reduce the number of abortions Americans have by providing more access to family-planning services, thus reducing unwanted pregnancies. The eloquent title of Budge’s work sums up his message: “Getting off at the public trough.”

In my recent posts on abortion, I warned against the dangers of imposing a comprehensive ban on abortion: every miscarriage will be a potential murder, every woman a suspect during her gynecological examinations. While many of us don’t have a problem with abortion, there is a rising movement in the States that does. So the question is, how can we compromise? How can we reduce abortions without imposing draconian measures that treats women’s bodies as property of the state?

I suggested increasing public funding for contraceptives and education to decrease the numbers of unwanted pregnancies, and increased availability of day care and maternity leave, etc., to ease the challenge for women to bear unplanned children.

For some reason, Budge assumes that these measures will only encourage more irresponsible f*cking.

In his post, he crunches some Guttmacher numbers about contraceptives funding and abortions and comes up with the following conclusion:

In other words, it doesn’t seem that public funding is the issue and in fact, if we are to draw any correlation, it would seem that the less we fund contraception the less abortions we have. In economic terms that kind of makes sense – the less the f_cking subsidy the less f_cking we get. Seems like an appropriate thought for government in general. No?

As is typical of the “free-market” proponents, Budge boils everything down to a simple cause-and-effect relationship between government funding and outcome, as if the people in the country were living in a vacuum-sealed laboratory pressing buttons for pellets.

Budge’s conclusion is based on his analysis that more contraceptive funding equates to higher abortions. What he fails to contemplate is a whole slew of other information provided in the Guttmacher report, like availability of clinics, number of women living under poverty levels, the changes in abortion rate over time, and the availability of health care.

One example of the fallibility of Budge’s number crunching is the state of Utah. Utah has the lowest abortion rate in the US – 7 per 1,000 women – but placed 34th (out of 51) for its public funding rate for contraceptives and family planning. What Budge doesn’t mention is that Utah women ranked among the highest for being insured (thus probably more likely to have non-state-funded family planning services), finished 48th for percentage of women in need being serviced by public clinics, ranked 48th for laws and policies regulating abortions and contraceptives, and ranked 44th for availability of clinical service.

Despite the low abortion rate, Utah does have an extremely high pregnancy rate – 114 per 1,000 women – how many are unwanted, but carried to term because of lack of clinics and societal pressure? And never mind that Nevada, which abuts Utah, ranks 14th in clinic availability and has an astoundingly high abortion rate – 31 per 1,000 women. You think Utah women seeking abortion don’t slip across the border to avoid the legislated road blocks to reproductive freedom in their home state?

Budge also fails to account for culture. For example, California’s high abortion rate may be due to the ready availability of abortion services, its proximity to Mexico (which has outlawed abortion), and its left-leaning population who may be less likely to carry a pregnancy to term because of religion or societal pressure. Its high rate of contraceptive availability may actually be reducing unwanted pregnancies.

To further discredit Budge’s findings, The Christian Science Monitor did a story on the same Guttmacher report. Somehow the paper came to the opposite conclusion as Budge:

States that showed stronger efforts to improve access to birth control, by Guttmacher's ranking, have also shown higher drops in teen pregnancy: In California and Alaska, the rates declined by 39 and 34 percent, respectively, between 1992 and 2000. In Nebraska, the lowest-ranking state in the Guttmacher report, teen pregnancy declined by 17 percent during that same period.

In the end, there is no evidence to support Budge’s claim that public funding of contraceptives and family planning leads to more unwanted pregnancies and abortions. In fact, the evidence says the opposite.

If we are to take Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1960’s study The Negro Family: The Case for National Action seriously, as Budge would have us do, public assistance only encourages out-of-wedlock births. But according to the report, our obligation is not to abandon families, but encourage them:

What then is that problem? We feel the answer is clear enough. Three centuries of injustice have brought about deep-seated structural distortions in the life of the Negro American. At this point, the present tangle of pathology is capable of perpetuating itself without assistance from the white world. The cycle can be broken only if these distortions are set right.

In a word, a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be directed towards the question of family structure. The object should be to strengthen the Negro family so as to enable it to raise and support its members as do other families. After that, how this group of Americans chooses to run its affairs, take advantage of its opportunities, or fail to do so, is none of the nation's business.

The report actually calls for public assistance directed at encouraging two-parent families in the African American community, not booting everyone off the public rolls, as Budge would have us believe. (And let us acknowledge, that this report is highly controversial, has been called racist and sexist. Here’s an article that discusses – and refutes – those claims, but it’s still something to be wary of.)

The main premise of the report is that public assistance encouraged the endemic occurrence of “broken homes” in the African-American community, and that these single-parent families perpetuated poverty. But we’ve seen from a recent discussion on this blog, that this isn’t necessarily true, that single parents often can and do raise children successfully on their own. Of course most of these accounts were from white, middle class Montanans – and in this particular culture, single-parent families are hardly the norm.

So is it a culture thing? Moynihan’s report implies as much. According to the report, while an upturn in public funding seemed to correlate with an increase in out-of-wedlock childbirths and stable poverty rates despite lower unemployment rates for African-Americans, no such similar correlation exists for whites on public funding. Moynihan attributes the difference to the “centuries of injustice” and goes into quite a bit of detail in his report on studies done on slavery and prisoners and the effects those institutions might have had on the African American community as a whole.

Bottom line: Budge attributes to simple economic forces what Moynihan and his report attributes to social and cultural forces.

Here’s the problem. Denying women access to contraceptives only increases the number of unwanted pregnancies. Forcing women to carry their unwanted pregnancies to term only increases the numbers of out-of-wedlock births. Eliminating assistance for those women and their children only ensures that those families will not succeed.

What more do you need to know?

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  1. Thanks for the nicely thorough post – I liked it.

  2. thanks! that means a lot, coming from you…

  3. .. for your possible interest I refer you to RichardMcChurch.wordpress.com and his post entitled WOMB MATES.

    Rod Smith

  4. Cute. I’ll have to pen a little dialog between a raped 13-year-old and the government forensic specialist who searches her vagina for evidence of an abortion. D’y think?

  5. …only mine will be non-fiction…

  1. 1 4&20 blackbirds » Blog Archive » Voters prefer pro-choice candidates

    […] This is a favorite topic of mine, how Americans can divide the gulf that separates us on abortion. Because when you think about it for awhile, most of us want the same thing: fewer abortions and more stable families. […]




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