by Prof. David Cloutier // Mt. St. Mary's University
"The first issue is the relationship of economic security to abortion. (All data here is taken from Guttmacher’s fact sheets from their last survey.) 69% of abortions are for women at 200% of poverty level or below. The abortion rate for women at or below poverty is 52 per 1,000 women (15-44), but their “unintended birth” rate is also very high: 70 per 1,000. Thus, the “unintended pregnancy” rate for poor women is 137 per 1,000 – a number near six times high than that of 200%+ poverty women (26). Guttmacher actually reports that the higher income group is more likely to choose abortion for an unintended pregnancy… but of course is dramatically less likely to have an unintended pregnancy in the first place.
The third issue to raise is the question of the long-term goal. Let’s say we have a system of effective contraception access and use, more comprehensive health care, somewhat higher restrictions on abortion availability – where will that get us? This is a description perhaps not far from the situation in Western Europe or (excepting the legal restrictions) among higher-income American women. Western Europe has the lowest abortion rate of any region in the world (about 12 per 1,000) and Guttmacher’s numbers suggest an abortion rate of about 14 per 1,000 for higher-income women. If we consider these numbers a kind of ideal-condition floor, let’s say the overall abortion rate dropped to 14 or even 12 in the U.S. – a stuation where we would have between 600,000 and 800,000 abortions every year. It would be hard for anyone to suggest that we had reached a point where abortion is “rare” with these kinds of numbers. I’m not sure what proposals pro-contraception-availability advocates have to lower the rate any further than this. I suppose “long-acting” birth-control methods, which reduce error rates, are the key ones. However, I think this is also a situation where we again have to talk about sexual behavior and say that avoiding risky – and perhaps the better term is “promiscuous” – sexual behaviors is a necessary and reasonable part of reducing abortions and even unintended pregnancies."
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