Calling The Pro-Lifers' Bluff On Contraception

The BBC reports:

The Guttmacher Institute's survey found abortion occurs at roughly equal rates in regions where it is legal and regions where it is highly restricted. It did note that improved access to contraception had cut the overall abortion rate over the last decade. But unsafe abortions, primarily illegal, have remained almost static.

Dan Savage pounces:

Banning abortion only makes abortions more dangerous and kills womenwhich is what many opponents of abortion are after, really. They want people who have sex to be punished. Seventy-thousand woman die every year as a result of unsafe abortions in countries where abortion is illegal. So let's just say it, shall we? American opponents of reproductive freedompeople who seek to ban abortionare trying to kill American women. The end.

Not so fast, says Michael New:

[T]he media’s analysis [of the study] is faulty. Most of the countries where abortion is prohibited are in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. These countries have low per capita income and a higher incidence of social pathologies that may increase the perceived need for abortion. This nuance is not picked up in any of the media coverage of the AGI report.

Interestingly, AGI has also released research that demonstrates the effectiveness of pro-life laws. This summer it released a literature review showing that 20 of 24 studies found that public funding of abortion increased abortion rates. Other AGI research has demonstrated that parental-involvement laws and well-designed informed-consent laws also reduce the incidence of abortion. Unfortunately, research like that typically receives scant attention from the mainstream media.

I'm not an expert on the studies New cites but the report itself clearly shows that liberalization of abortion laws and broad access to contraception through insurance is a highly effective policy mix in a developed country to reduce the abortion rate. I.e., by the Christianist argument, it is clearly saving lives. Here's a statistic worth mulling over, a comparison with a country culturally not far from the US:

Western Europe is held up as an example of what access to contraceptive services can achieve, and the Netherlands - with just 10 abortions per 1,000 women compared to the world's 29 per 1,000 - is held up as the gold standard. Here, young people report using two forms of contraception as standard.

Even the UK, which has a relatively high [abortion] rate, fares well in comparison to the US, where the number of abortions is among the highest in the developed world. The institute says this rate is in part explained by inconsistencies in insurance coverage of contraceptive supplies.

What are the odds that the Christianists are prepared to do the one thing that would actually reduce abortions dramatically: guarantee free contraception as part of a public option. Nothing would make the GOP's head explode more; and yet nothing would do more to achieve one of their alleged chief goals.

The price of fundamentalism.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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