By Allison Berkowitz
Defunding of Planned Parenthood. Abortion. Pro-life. All these terms have flashed across headlines and circulated repeatedly in many Republican platforms. They played a huge role in Republican Presidential Nominee Candidate Carly Fiorina’s powerful, albeit completely false, depiction of the issue. It escalated all the way to the Supreme Court agenda, and caused the shooting and tragic murders of three by the hands of religious and anti-abortionist Robert Lewis Dear in Colorado Springs, November 27. Now, despite this tragedy, the Senate passed measures last week to repeal key Obamacare provisions, including Planned Parenthood.
Abortion is not singular to the United States. Religious and moral ideologies aside, abortions occur in every country, at every economic condition, every race, every class. Yearly studies by the Guttmacher Institute estimate that approximately 42 million deaths occur each year from abortions, half of which are due to operations and conditions that do not even meet minimum medical standards. In most cases and in the United States, these self-induced miscarriages come from wire hangers and drug overdoses, which, if not properly sought out, are fatal. In real time, a woman in a developing nation dies every 8 minutes through complications from an unsafe abortion according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is fundamentally a health pandemic.
In the United States however, abortion issues are indicative of severe lapses in the socioeconomic conditions and healthcare systems.
As a highly developed nation, the United States meets standards and funds to alleviate both cause and deaths. Since 2011, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noticed drastic decreases in abortions over the last decade, by rates of approximately 10-13 percent. Additionally, the CDC examined all previous studies on abortion and fertility, and found that more access to and usage of contraceptives resulted in significant drops in abortion rates. Interestingly, even across income levels in the United States, statistics from abortions recorded revealed that high income earners sought out medical abortions more so than lower income earners. In addition, the wealthiest also experienced more access to and better usage of contraceptives and lower rates of pregnancy. In many WHO reports, it has also been found that “less restrictive abortion laws do not appear to entail more abortions overall,” a finding that aligns with the European experience of legal abortion and lower rates overall. Meaning, providing access to clinics such as Planned Parenthood that provide reproductive services would actually decrease the rate of abortions. In fact, only 3 percent of all services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortions; the others being contraceptives, nutritional services, STD testing, and various women’s health screenings.
What should have been up for discussion in this election regarding this issue are proactive solutions to what Fiorina described as being “about the character of this nation.” Fiorina is absolutely right. More deaths stop when abortions are available if needed. But, seeking out an abortion in the first place can be significantly reduced.
Abortion stops when contraceptives and health care is available and usage is widespread. Abortion stops when adoption processes and maternity conditions improve. Abortion stops when people, mothers, aren’t desperate. Abortions stop when people feel safe and in control of their reproductive health whether provided by Planned Parenthood or other safe clinics. Abortion stops when necessary and viable services such as Planned Parenthood are not cut from Obamacare, but further refined and expanded for effective health outcomes.
On the subject of character of this nation: women’s health issues should never be an issue for political posturing, as was seen in various 2016 presidential candidates’ false platforms and socially irresponsible responses. It is repugnant and disrespectful to the three victims of the Planned Parenthood Colorado Springs shooting—Officer Garrett Swasey, Ke’Arre Stewart, and Jennifer Markovsky—and their families for their deaths to have occurred and to continue to be discussed in a frankly grotesque manner.
Sister Joan Chittister, a famous Benedictine nun sums it up: “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
Abortion does not end by taking away the table.