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Religious Tolerance logo

Reducing the U.S. abortion rate...

By encouraging pregnant couples
to choose childbirth over abortion

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Reducing abortions:

There are various approaches to reduce the abortion rate. Two of the most common are:

  • By legislation that makes abortions more difficult to obtain. Much of the pro-life effort has been concentrated in this area. They have sponsored legislation or regulations to:
    • Prevent women under the age of 18 from having an abortion without prior parental consent or notification.
    • Criminalize the transporting of women under the age of 18 across state lines to have an abortion.
    • Requiring abortion providers to supply specific information to a woman seeking an abortion.
    • Requiring a woman to view an ultrasound of her embryo or fetus.
    • Requiring a waiting period before a woman can obtain an abortion.
    • Require abortion providers to meet unreasonably strict medical standards.
    • Etc.
    The general goal is to make abortion "Safe, Legal and Unavailable," to quote the title of a book on this topic by Melody Rose. 1
  • Through education that prevents pregnancies from happening either by:
    • Convincing students to choose abstinence.
    • Providing sexually active or potentially active people with access to contraceptives and information on their proper use.
    • Creating a culture in which sexually active couples who are not in a permanent relationship are expected to prevent pregnancy.

These approaches to reducing abortions are controversial. They immediately trigger resistance by the pro-life movement, the pro-choice movement, and/or religious and social conservatives.

However, there is a third path that may be used: to encourage already-pregnant couples to choose childbirth instead of abortion. Many couples would prefer to make this decision if certain roadblocks were removed and if child raising were more affordable and feasable.

 Governments around the world have encouraged childbirth through:

  • Liberal pregnancy leave legislation.
  • Reducing income taxes for parents.
  • Making child care facilities more affordable and available.
  • Providing special classes for pregnant students.
  • Providing free pre-natal health care.
  • Providing free health insurance for children.
  • Removal of sales tax on children's clothing.
  • Etc.

An example of federal legislation to encourage continuing pregnancies:

On 2008-SEP-26, Congress passed a bill to help parents of fetuses and babies with genetic defects.  It is designed to make childbirth a more desirable option by increasing support services to the parents before and after birth. Having access to sufficient emotional and physical support might persuade some parents to continue their pregnancy rather than choose abortion.

Prenatal tests nnow make it possible to identify fetuses that have defects in their genetic structure that will cause mental retardation, deafness, early-onset Alzheimer's disease, and a range of other diseases.

The New York Times wrote that:

"For many women and their partners, the decision to terminate a pregnancy after a prenatal diagnosis of a serious genetic defect can be harrowing, often coming after a painful assessment of their own emotional and financial resources. ... About 90 percent of women who learn they are carrying a fetus with the extra 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome choose an abortion. Studies have shown that many women choose to abort for diagnoses of less serious conditions." 22

In an unusual display of bi-partisanship, one of the most conservative legislators in Congress -- Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) -- joined with one of the most liberal, -- Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) --  and with one other Democrat, one independent, and three other Republicans -- to cosponsor the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act. It passed the senate on 2008-SEP-23 by unanimous consent. It passed the House two days later by a voice vote. If signed by President Bush, it will help provide up-to-date information to families that receive an adverse prenatal genetic diagnosis. It will link them to support services and networks that may be able to offer them continuing support. 3

References used:/h3>
  1. Melody Rose, "Safe, Legal and Unavailable? Abortion politics in the United States," CQ Press, (2007). RRead reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  2. Sarahlyunn Lester, "Genetic Testing + Abortion = ???," New York Times, 2007-MAY-13, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  3. "Good News: Prenatal-Awareness Bill Heads to President's Desk," CitizenLink.com, 2008-SEP-26, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
  4. "S. 1810: Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act," Govtrack.us, at: http://www.govtrack.us/

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2008-SEP-29
Latest update: 2008-SEP-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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