I was encouraged by Colin's statement that abortion "should always be used as an absolute last resort, something to pursue only after all other avenues have been exhausted." Sadly, that's not how things typically happen between pregnancy and abortion. If adoption is regarded as one of these "other avenues," far more more women are opting for the "last resort" of abortion: according to AbortionFacts.com, only four percent of non-marital births are placed for adoption, or about 50,000 non-related adoptions a year as compared to over a million babies aborted annually.
Indeed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health organization, nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions occurred. Clearly, since Roe v. Wade, abortion has not been treated by most women who have had one (or, by almost half, more than one) as a "last resort."
There is also a widespread misconception (if not a knowing deception) among abortion-on-demand proponents that a large portion of, if not most, unintended pregnancies don't result from a deliberate choice on a woman's part to have sexual relations. For example, Colin states that "I think most health and law enforcement officials would wholeheartedly disagree with you that rape-induced pregnancy is rare. Unfortunately, especially in big cities, it is quite common, and that fact alone should be strong enough to keep abortion legalized." However, multiple studies by law enforcement and medical researchers have calculated that, on the average, at most 8 per 1,000 women who are raped or the victims of incest become pregnant in the United States. This is equivalent to 0.8 percent, or less than one percent. Even the most "liberal" estimates place the adult pregnancy rate associated with rape at about 4.7 percent.
Additional information provided by the Guttmacher Institute is revealing. Among the reasons surveyed women gave for having an abortion, three-fourths cited concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths said they couldn't afford a child; three-fourths said that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with a husband or partner. This data suggests that most women seeking abortion are doing so to avoid the expense, burdens, and complexities of bearing and caring for a child.
"Pregnancy often poses a massive threat to the health of the mother, and if abortion were illegal then that mother would have no choice but to risk her own life to carry out the pregnancy, which would surely be a violation of human rights." Pregnancy itself always poses some risk to the mother, but the danger is "massive" only in cases of ectopic or other "defective" pregnancies, or when the mother suffers from an unusual medical condition that is or could become life-threatening due to the increased physical and mental stresses of carrying a child to term (some doctors have observed that abortion is almost never a medical necessity to save a woman's life). As I noted in my earlier posts, relatively few people who consider themselves pro-life would oppose abortion in the very rare cases when it is truly, and professionally certified as, necessary to save the mother from death or life-long physical or mental disability.
As noted in an article by the University of Toronto Students for Life:
Pro-choice advocates tend to appeal to hard cases, which are rare, and then extrapolate to all abortions. “What if a woman was raped? What if a woman’s life is in danger?” These are serious and complex issues — but they account for a small percentage of all abortions. These are bad arguments for all abortions being legal, ethical, or “medically necessary,” and honest pro-choicers know it.The hard cases are a red herring. The real issue, and what most concerns "pro-choice" advocates, is whether and how to confine abortion to those hard cases--that is, whether access to abortion should be restricted or denied in the overwhelmingly typical case of a woman (or parents; it takes two to tango) who seeks to avoid the unintended (if entirely natural and foreseeable) consequence of a free and deliberate (or careless) act because she (or they) deem it too difficult, painful, burdensome, expensive, or embarrassing to endure. To be sure, some of these situations, as where the mother is a young teenager entirely unprepared to raise a child, might even approach the "hard case" category. In any event, what the pro-life movement seeks is a legal process by which abortion is limited to those situations in which it is a true medical "necessity" or the only reasonable answer under the circumstances, with the burden of proof and justification on the person who seeks to terminate the unborn child's life. Colin and others favoring unrestricted abortion object that "such a process could take weeks or even months to complete, and by that time the baby could be only weeks away from birth." But judicial systems in many states and localities already provide specialized courts for juvenile and other family matters, including expedited hearings and relaxed rules of evidence. Such procedures need not take weeks and months to complete, and the judges who typically preside tend to be highly experienced in domestic matters and know how urgently some matters need to be resolved.
Changing the rules on abortion certainly won't solve all social problems associated with unwanted children, nor would it come without a price. Such a change could put serious strains on court systems, medical resources, adoption and public assistance agencies, and child protective services--and ultimately, taxpayers. And yes, despite all the prenatal support and postnatal adoption resources available, many women will resort to black-market abortion providers rather than follow the law and endure the burdens of childbearing. Ending abortion-on-demand would save many children's lives, but merely changing the law isn't enough to avert a potential host of new problems. Clearly a much greater investment in maternal, child support, and adoption services would be necessary. But a change more fundamental even than this is necessary: a new--or renewed--culture of personal responsibility, sacrifice, commitment, and love; a culture of marriage, and of life. As much as abortion-on-demand has undermined the moral fabric of society, I think it's also a symptom of a breakdown that began years before Roe vs. Wade, as moral relativism, hedonism, materialism, and the state came to replace common decency, religious faith, and the family in American life. Only when we embrace these ideals anew, individually and as a society, can we hope to replace today's culture of selfishness, depravity, and death with one that encourages and supports life. Mothers and children deserve nothing less.