So many Americans have conflicted opinions about abortion policy, or do their utmost to look away from the abortion debate entirely, precisely because when they listen to an abortion opponent describing the consequences of its ongoing legality and then an abortion rights proponent describing the consequences of making it illegal, they desperately desire to avoid being complicit in either of those terrible realities. Told that legal abortion is unspeakably brutal to unborn humans and that lack of access to legal abortion is unspeakably brutal to women, they feel both are correct. Thus the appeal of Bill Clinton’s famous attempt to triangulate on the issue: The notion that the best way forward is to make abortion “safe, legal, and rare.”
That approach squares with the moral intuitions of many Americans, even as others in the conflicted middle of the issue would prefer a formulation that distinguishes between abortions carried out at 8 weeks and those carried out at 8 months. For them, “safe, legal, and rare” sounds like a good compromise when they imagine a “clump of cells” being aborted very early in a pregnancy and much less desirable––even intolerable––when they imagine a baby that would be perfectly viable outside the womb being dismembered at 33 weeks inside the birth canal.
For either sort in the conflicted middle, this summer has brought some happy news. “Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest experiments with long-acting birth control,” the New York Times reported. “If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them? They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.”
The program saved taxpayers an estimated $80 million in Medicaid costs and will cut costs elsewhere too. But when the private money that paid for the program dried up, some pro-life legislators in the state opposed continuing to fund it using public money. Why would legislators who regard abortion as murder oppose a program that caused a 42 percent reduction in women seeking the procedure? “Most of the time an IUD prevents sperm from meeting an egg, and therefore prevents pregnancy,” NPR explains. “But if the egg and sperm do meet, the IUD keeps that embryo from planting itself in the uterus. In those cases, an IUD would prevent a fertilized egg from developing into a person.” Some regard those rare cases as abortions.
Opponents of state funding for IUDs cite other concerns as well. "We believe that offering contraceptives to teens, especially long-acting reversible contraceptives, while it may prevent pregnancy, does not help them understand the risks that come with sexual activities," Colorado Family Action stated in USA Today. "We should not remove parents from the equation—equipping teens for safe sex without their parent's involvement bypasses this critical parental right and responsibility. Parents need to be the primary educator when it comes to sexual education and the primary decision about healthcare choices for their children. Lastly, Colorado taxpayers should not be paying for the 'Cadillac' of birth control for minor children."