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Religious Tolerance logo

Should a pro-life supporter vote Democrat or Republican?

3. Democratic Party's plans to reduce abortions

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Expected Democratic Party plans to reduce abortions:

The party platform approved prior to the 2008 elections contains three planks that would probably have an impact on the total number of abortions in the country. One plank -- to remove some existing impediments to abortion access -- would probably increase the number of abortions to some degree. The other two would probably reduce the number of abortions by an amount that is difficult to estimate.

1. Removing impediments to abortion access:

One plank in the party platform states:

"The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right."

Under various Republican Congresses and state legislatures, various impediments have been created to make it difficult for women to obtain abortion services. In the somewhat exaggerated words of author Melody Rose, these accumulated restrictions have made abortion "safe, legal and unavailable.1 Laws and regulations are in place that:

  • Require pregnant teens under 18 seeking an abortion to obtain parental consent or to inform their parents.
  • Require women seeking an abortion to go through a "cooling-off" period before being able to have an abortion.
  • Require physicians to read a standard statement to a pregnant woman seeking an abortion that compares the risks of having an abortion with the risks of childbirth. Some of the statements define the embryo or fetus as a person. Some of these statements have been criticized for their alleged lack of objectivity and controversial content.
  • Compel pregnant women to view an ultrasound image of her fetus. This would help a women bond with their fetus and might make her less inclined to seek an abortion.
  • Bar "... the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for abortions, except when the woman’s life would be endangered by a full-term pregnancy, or in cases of rape or incest." 2
  • Bar the use of use of state funds for abortions. "... 32 states and the District of Columbia prohibit public funding of abortions, except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest." 2
In addition, Republicans have sponsored various versions of a Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA) that would make it illegal for a non-parent to transport a minor across a state line to obtain an abortion if her home state required parental consent. None of these bills have never left Congress to be signed into law. 3

It is likely that the Democratic Party would resist any further attempts in increase restrictions on abortion access. They might well attempt to dismantle some of the existing restrictive laws and regulations.

2. Family planning and sex-education:

A second plank in the Democratic Party platform states:

"The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions."
Essentially all abortions are sought because the pregnant woman -- or someone in her immediate family -- does not want the birth of a child. There are two logical methods of reducing the number of abortions:
  • By restricting or eliminating access to abortion. Judging by the past activities of  Republicans, this is their main approach.
  • By preventing unwanted pregnancies from even starting: This is the main Democratic Party approach.

By making family planning economically available, many couples will be able to prevent unwanted conceptions and thus avoid any need to seek an abortion.

The Republicans have stressed abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools. This restricts students from learning anything about pregnancy and STD prevention. What little mention there is of contraception and disease prevention is restricted to discussing how unreliable various methods are. There is some indication that abstinence-only education briefly delays teens' first sexual experience. However, once they become sexually active -- as more than 90% of teens and young adults do before marriage -- they have no information from their sex-education to help them avoid conception and pregnancy.

The Democrats appear to be promoting comprehensive sex-education courses that:

  • Strongly recommend abstinence to all teens, and
  • Teach disease and pregnancy prevention to those teens that decide to be sexually active.

Their expectation appears to be that these policies would cause the unwanted pregnancy rate in the U.S. to drop, perhaps to values as low as that seen in other industrialized countries. This in turn would reduce the U.S. abortion rate significantly, again perhaps to values seen in Europe, and other developed countries. 

3. Making childbirth feasible for more women and couples:

A third plank in the Democratic Party platform states:

"The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."

Women have many reasons for not wanting to be pregnant, and thus to seek an abortion. Only about 6% of abortions are related to medical concerns about the mother or fetus. Only about 1% of abortions are sought because the pregnancy originated in an abusive sexual act. Over 90% are sought for personal reasons.

Common motivations are:

  • Lack of parenting skills: Most abortions are done on women under the age of 25.
  • Lack of support: Most women seeking abortions are unmarried; many others are separated from their spouse.
  • Lack of finances: Many are poor and feel that they cannot afford to have and raise a child.

Many pregnant women would choose to continue their pregnancies if they had the financial resources, support services, skills, etc. to bear and bring up a child. The Democratic party appears to expect that removing these impediments will result in more completed pregnancies and fewer requests for abortion.

A side benefit of these policies would be that more women would have pre-natal care. A main reason why the U.S. has such a high maternal and infant death rate compared to other developed countries is because so many women's first contact with a physician during their pregnancy is during labor.


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Melody Rose, "Safe, Legal, and Unavailable?: Abortion Politics in the United States," CQ Press (2006). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  2. "Get 'In the Know:' Questions About Pregnancy, Contraception and Abortion," Guttmacher Institute, at: http://www.guttmacher.org/
  3. J. Margaret Datiles, "CIANA: Protecting Minors from Sexual Predators and Fostering Respect for State Laws," Americans United for Life, 2008-JUL-28, at: http://blog.aul.org/

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-OCT-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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