I was relaxing in my living room a few days ago and I picked up my wife's issue of More magazine (June, 2005). It had Maria Shriver on the cover, so I thought I'd check out what she had to say about being First Lady of California. As I flipped through the magazine, however, I came across an article titled "Surprise, Surprise! Pregnant at 40+".
This article contained a statement that caught my eye. "A whopping 65% of unintended pregnancies in women over age 40 end in abortion--the highest percentage for any age group." The statistic was attributed to the Guttmacher Institute.
That eye-opening stat drew me in. As I read on, I was surprised to find that the article recounted the story of "Lori" a 44-year old executive from New York City, who had made the decision to have an abortion, and gave her reasons for doing it, which were:
1) "It would have been a stretch to afford full time help."
2) "Space - the couple live in a one-bedroom apartment."
3) "I wasn't sure we would be able to agree about child-rearing decisions."
"Lori" also revealed that she had had an abortion once before, while in college, because she "barely knew the guy and wanted to finish school."
I was struck by the frankness of the article and the cavalier attitude "Lori" presented toward ending her pregnancy. None of the reasons she gave for having the abortion had anything to do with rape, incest or the life of the mother. In fact, the article even states that "Lori's" ob/gyn conducted an ultrasound, told her 'It's a healthy fetus,' and encouraged her to think hard about it because it could be her last chance to have a child. Her husband even said 'This happened, so why don't we see it though?'
So here I am, reading this, thinking "I can't believe this woman would so openly talk about having two abortions for no reason other than birth control." It made me angry enough to march to my computer to start drafting a blog post about it. I was going to focus on how offensive and morally wrong I thought it was for "Lori" to end her baby's life because she couldn't have a full time nanny, extra closet space and a 'Leave It to Beaver' child-rearing relationship with her husband.
But as I researched the issue a bit more, I realized I was focusing my anger in the wrong place. I'm not angry at "Lori" over her reasons for aborting her baby. Disgusted, maybe, but not angry.
What I'm really upset about is something I confirmed as I researched abortion statistics. According to the Guttmacher Institute which is, by the way, a pro-choice organization that says its mission is "to protect the reproductive choices of all women and men in the United States and throughout the world," over 90% of all abortions in the U.S. are for no reason other than birth control.
21% Inadequate finances
21% Not ready for responsibility
16% Woman's life would be changed too much
12% Problems with relationship; unmarried
11% Too young; not mature enough
8% Children are grown; woman has all she wants
3% Fetus has possible health problem
3% Woman has health problem
1% Pregnancy caused by rape, incest
So according to this pro-choice organization, only about 4% of the more than 1.3 million abortions in the U.S. each year are due to "rape, incest or life of the mother." Add in abortions due to a health problem with the baby and it reaches just 7%.
I've heard the mantra that abortion must be kept available for cases of "rape, incest or life of the mother" thousands of times throughout my life from politicians on both sides of the aisle and I happen to agree with it. I also agree with the other mantra, also advocated to one degree or another by politicians on both sides of the aisle, that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare."
I think the vast majority of people can agree with these positions. Only the most hard core conservatives at the furthest fringes of the movement insist that all abortions be outlawed, regardless of circumstance. And liberals are moving quickly toward the center on the issue as well, agreeing that abortion should be made rare .
I'm angry with the politicians who love this middle ground because they can hide in it knowing, as the statistics show, that this "middle ground" exists only in theory. While our representatives talk incessantly around the fringes of abortion with placating catch-phrases, the reality is that it is overwhelmingly used in the U.S. as a form of birth control, which almost everyone agrees is wrong.
Babies should not be aborted because people cannot afford nannies. Babies should not be aborted because they will be inconvenient. Babies should not be aborted because people have small houses. Babies should not be aborted because they make it hard to get dates.
We have an opportunity right now to make a fundamental change in the way abortion is handled in this country. Yes, abortion should be safe and legal as an option in the rare instances of rape, incest and health of the mother. But that does not mean it has to remain open for massive abuse as a form of birth control. Its time for somebody to take a leadership role on this issue and push for legislation that regulates the circumstances under which abortions can be performed.
Democrats have moved dramatically to the center on the issue of abortion since the last election. Now is the time to draw them into a new middle ground we can all agree on: that abortion should not be used as birth control. They will be morally unable (and politically unwilling) to defend the way abortion is being abused in America today and real progress can be made.