There were two very interesting posts this week by voices from the pro-life left that argue for a focus on a real reduction in abortions rather than another round of the culture wars.
First, Morning's Minion at the group Catholic blog, Vox Nova offers these thoughts:
I think the answer is to engage the culture, to get one’s hands dirty. Promoting the gospel of life in the real world can be a messy business. Christ never promised otherwise. Christians are called to lead by example. Jesus himself socialized with some of the worst sinners in his society. His fellow Pharisees took him to task for it, but he did it. Staying above the fray is simply not an option.
Look at some of the facts pertaining to abortion. A full 57% of women opting for abortion are economically disadvantaged. In fact, the abortion rate among women living below the federal poverty level ($9,570 for a single woman with no children) is more than four times that of women above 300% of the poverty level (44 vs. 10 abortions per 1,000 women). And when asked to give reasons for abortion, three-quarters of women say that cannot afford a child. At the same time, black women are almost four times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are two and a half life times as likely. Almost half of women terminating their pregnancies have had previous abortions, and 60 percent of abortions are concentrated among women who already have children.
So what should we do? Should we stand firm and insist on criminalization? Or should we recognize that a combination of economic and cultural factors lead women to choose abortion too readily? Should we not be trying to change the culture, to promote stable families? Should we not be trying to promote just economic policies that allow the fruits of material success to be better shared? Adopting this latter approach may sometimes mean making common ground with those who do not believe that abortion is always and everywhere wrong. It really angers me when the naysayers claim that that is somehow akin to betraying Christ, to selling out one’s Catholic principles. We are motivated solely by the desire to end abortion, through the most effective means possible, with the firm belief that the “legal strategy” will do next-to-nothing to end abortion. After all, what impact have supposed “pro-life presidents” had on abortion rates? And experience suggests that we will be taken seriously by the pro-choice side, and by the culture at large, when we promote a consistent ethic of life. Again, what matters is persuasion, and we can only do this by example.
Read it all here.
The second post is by pro-life Democrat Tony Campolo:
A recent study indicated that as many as 200,000 abortions could be prevented each year if the government includes contraception for low-income women on Medicaid. Also if provisions were made for medical coverage for pregnant women who cannot afford doctors and hospital care, and daycare assistance provided for mothers who are gainfully employed to support themselves and their children, the number of abortions per year could be cut even more dramatically. Too many low-income women, especially those who might become single mothers, cannot afford what better-off women take for granted.
Other proposals to decrease abortions include guaranteed maternity leave so that women do not have to choose between job security and motherhood.
Raising the minimum wage would help. Studies show that a woman working full time at the present minimum wage cannot afford the rent of even a low-cost apartment, let alone carry the additional cost of raising her unborn child.
Consider an 18-year-old single pregnant woman who is working at the minimum wage, has no health insurance, and no prospect of daycare for her unborn child. Would not these realities provide strong inclinations to have an abortion? Sadly, the same members of Congress who claim they are pro-life stand against addressing the economic measures that could dramatically reduce abortions in our country.
Hillary Clinton supported proposals such as I have cited in her so-called Pregnant Women Support Act. I hope that Barack Obama will lend his support to these same proposals and make it a part of his agenda. I also hope that pro-life Republicans might consider what can be done as they face up to the stressful economic realities that so many pregnant poor women face and make provisions to help them in their party's platform.
It is not enough to advocate the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. Pro-life Republicans must join pro-life Democrats and address the economic problems that are driving hundreds of thousands of young women to think that abortion is their only option. Such Republicans should also remember that for two years their party controlled the White House, the Congress and had a conservative Supreme Court, and yet made no concerted effort during that time to address the abortion issue. That might be why many Evangelicals who had given the Republicans their votes four years ago are having second thoughts about voting Republican this time around.
If the Democrats are going to make any dent in the support that Evangelicals now provide for the Republicans, they had better address the abortion issue and do what is necessary to show that while their party might still remain pro-choice, it has become a party committed to making abortions rare.
Read it all here.
As I have written here, I think it is time for their to be a serious effort to reduce abortions rather than to continue to fight the fruitless culture wars. There are actually some groups taking this question quite seriously. The Democrats for Life have a proposal that aims to reduce the number of abortions by 95% in ten years. Some of the proposals are opposed by pro-choice groups, but many are not. Pro-choice Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro and Pro-Life Congressman Tim Ryan are leading a coalition of members on both sides of the issue to sponsor the “Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act,” a summary of which can be found here.