It seems like abortion has been getting a lot of attention lately. And it hasn't just been the usual "it's good/it's bad" discussion. Instead the conversation has been more of the tenor of "it's bad, so what do we do about it?" And this is coming from both pro-life and pro-choice positions. There's been significant attention to the idea that we should do everything we can to reduce the number of abortions. Among plenty of other examples, Hillary Clinton recently acknowledged the tragedy of abortion. And Ben Stark posted this blog about crisis pregnancy centers, and the type of efforts they make. Then there was the rather disingenuous article by a pro-choice advocate who was arguing that the best way to protect abortion rights was to reduce the number of abortions. Suffice it to say, this topic has been on my mind a lot lately.
Even more importantly, I think the general tone of the country in recent years has been towards acknowledging the importance of life. Congress has passed significant regulations on abortion. Bush was re-elected. Roberts and Alito have been confirmed to the Court. And while this in no way means that Roe and Casey will be overturned in the near future, I think we can be hopeful that the nation is heading that way. I think we can be hopeful that in the long term abortion will again be illegal. And I think we can expect that in the shorter term there will be significantly more regulations restricting abortion.
Which means it's time for us all - both pro-life and pro-choice - to be worried about a new problem. Or rather, it's time to be worried about an old problem: the causes that give rise to abortion.
In a society where abortion is illegal abortions still happen. Sadly, they happen in horrible conditions, which frequently put considerable risk on the life of the mother. When abortions are illegal people who have and provide them are effectively coerced into secrecy, which causes even more problems. The simple fact is, making abortions illegal provides new problems.
Of course, these problems do not mean that abortion should be legal. These problems in no way justify taking a person's life. But they do mean that we have some gaping holes in society that need to be fixed.
The problems come in two forms. The first is the problems that cause people to choose abortion. These can be things as concrete and social as poverty, or as nebulous and individual as "having a child doesn't fit into my plans". So this means we'll need a wide variety of measures to help people with these problems. Educating people and preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place is a great way to start. Providing greater aid - and greater awareness of aid - to mothers and infants through programs like WIC is another excellent strategy. Creating channels of communication between pregnant teens and their parents, requiring both parents to provide some form of support for their children, increasing access to day care and health services, etc. All of these are things which need more attention and further discussion.
The second type of problem is what to do with unwanted children. Liberalizing and streamlining the adoption laws is a great way to start. We need to reward adoption, and we need to support the mother through the adoption process, which can be a very lonely and difficult time. We also need to invest more in programs which care for orphans and provide significant state-assistance to those who decide to keep their children. Essentially, we need to do all we can to make the children wanted and welcome in our society, and we need to help single-parents feel that same sense of community and care. Again, these are just a couple of the many ideas which need to be explored and implemented.
But why talk about these things now? After all, abortion is still legal. There are two reasons I can see that we should get the ball rolling now. First, these are simply good ideas. These things will help reduce the number of abortions, whether they're legal or not. And, if there's less need for abortion, then arguably there's less reason to have it be legal. There are those who would disagree with this point, but it's not really essential. What is essential, however, is the fact that these are good and important programs which address serious social problems.
The second reason is that it'll take some time for these to build up steam. I want to make sure these types of protective measures are put into place before abortion is outlawed (if and when that happens). If we're going to stop abortions we need to make sure the safety net is already in place.
Sure, I think it would be a good thing if abortion was illegal tomorrow. But that wouldn't be nearly good enough. It would be exponentially better if, in addition to abortion being illegal, the problems which give rise to abortion were also eliminated. These are both part of the same fight. We need to keep one eye on continuing the "make abortion illegal" front. But we also need to start paying more attention to the "causes of abortion" front.
When abortion is illegal we've only taken the first step. We will only be victorious when the social problems surrounding and causing abortion have been dealt with. We cannot stop fighting until all of those evils have been eliminated.
That is why it is time to start thinking about these problems now.
Get on your dancing shoes
There's one thing on your mind