A Sensible Anti-Abortion Policy

Each year in the United States, there are approximately 6.7 million pregnancies. Of these, roughly half are unintended. More than a third of all unintended pregnancies end in abortion. As a result, approximately 1 million women in the United States have an abortion each year.

Unmarried women are five times as likely as married women to terminate an unintended pregnancy with an abortion. Women living below the poverty line are five times more likely than higher-income women to have an unintended pregnancy, and poor women have 40 percent of all abortions.

Abortion is a sensitive topic that engages deeply-felt moral and religious beliefs. Many Americans abhor abortion. Some of them work actively to reduce the number of abortions by advocating greater sex education and easier access to birth control. Others take a more draconian approach. Responding to the latter approach, a number of states, most notably Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah, have enacted harsh restrictions intended to drive abortion providers out of existence.

Among these restrictions are laws requiring a woman to make multiple trips to an abortion provider before she can have a legal abortion; requiring abortion providers to be located within a short distance of a hospital; requiring abortion providers to have an affiliation with a local hospital; and requiring abortion providers to have procedure rooms and corridors of specified sizes that have nothing whatever to do with the abortion procedure.

These restrictions are defended on the ground that they are designed to protect the health and safety of women, but that is a fraud. Their real purpose is to raise the cost of abortion, to make abortion more difficult, to put as many obstacles as possible in the path of women seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies, and to put as many abortion providers as possible out of business.

Largely as a result of these restrictions, millions of women now reside in counties with no abortion providers. As a consequence, those women now have to travel great distances in order to exercise their constitutional right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, often at considerable cost and inconvenience.

Not surprisingly, these restrictions have a particularly severe impact on poor women, who have neither the resources nor the time to travel long distances to obtain an abortion. The effect of these restrictions is to cause women, especially poor women, to bear children they do not want, with often dire consequences for these women and their families. It is hard not to conclude that the purpose of these laws is to punish women, as well as to limit the number of abortions performed each year in the United States.

This is, frankly, a stupid way to attempt to reduce the number of abortions. There is a much better way. That way is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. Sixty-five percent of women in the United States today use contraception consistently and correctly. They account for only 5 percent of all unintended pregnancies. Thirty-five percent of women in the United States today, mostly teenage girls and poor women, use contraception inconsistently or not at all. They account for 95 percent of all unintended pregnancies.

Women who correctly use contraception have less than a 1 percent chance of experiencing pregnancy over the course of a year. Women who do not use contraception or use it inconsistently or incorrectly have an 85 percent chance of experiencing an unintended pregnancy each year.

For those who are serious about wanting to reduce the number of abortions in the United States, easy access to affordable and effective contraception, and ready advice about the proper use of contraception, is critical. With such a policy in place, the United States would radically reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, the number of unintended children, and the number of abortions. Indeed, if all people used contraception consistently and correctly, the number of abortions per year in the United States would drop from one million to approximately 75,000.

Those who say they want to reduce the number of abortions in the United States should abandon their punitive and misguided policies and do something constructive to address the issue.