byFaith | 1.8.15
By Alan Dowd
Roe v. Wade, the
1973 Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized abortion throughout
America, turns 42 this month. Marking the end rather than the beginning of so
many lives, it is a most unusual and unhappy birthday.
The numbers are staggering; indeed, they are almost too big
to grasp. Since 1973, some 54 million abortions have been performed in the
United States. Lots of myths have emerged in the intervening years to obscure
and defend and rationalize what Roespawned—myths that need to be addressed.
Myth #1: Americans
Only 27 percent of Americans support abortion without restrictions.
Fully 60 percent of
Americans want abortion to be restricted or not permitted under any
circumstance. In fact, more Americans call themselves “pro-life”—a term the
media refuses to use—than “pro-choice”—the happy-sounding euphemism adopted by
These opinions are translating into substantive changes,
albeit slowly. For example, in 89 percent of U.S. counties, there are no
abortion providers at all. And as the Guttmacher Institute, an
abortion-advocacy group, reports, states
are increasingly enacting laws to protect mothers and their unborn children: waiting
periods, pre-abortion counseling, parental consent for minors seeking an
abortion, better health standardsfor abortion clinics.
The shift in attitudes is no doubt being spurred by
scientific advances. Pre-natal imagery is giving us a new window on life at its
very earliest stages. Recall the head-turning GE commercial: “When you
see your baby for the first time on
the new GE 4D Ultrasound system, it really is a miracle.” (Italics added.) Surgery
is now, incredibly, being performed on unborn children. As a Newsweek cover storyexplained, “No matter what legislators, activists, judges or even individual
Americans decide about fetal rights, medicine has already granted unborn babies a unique form of personhood—as
patients.” (Italics added.)
Myth #2: Abortion
prevents unintended or unplanned pregnancy
As believers, we know there’s no such thing as unintended
pregnancy. Scripture tells us why: We are—each of us—“fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Marveling at God’s boundless creativity, the psalmistgasps, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” In other words, we are
anything but unplanned.
Myth #3: Abortion is
rare and safe
In fact, abortion is neither. First, 21 percent of all
pregnancies end in abortion, translating into hundreds of thousands of
abortions each year—and tens of millions since 1973. On this, pro-lifers and
pro-choicers agree: Abortion is one of the most common medical procedures in
Second, a woman comes into the abortion clinic with two
heartbeats, and leaves with one. So, the fatality rate of every abortion is at
least 50 percent.
But the safety issue extends beyond the unborn child. Every
now and then, Americans are forced to confront the awful reality of abortion. The
recent trial of Kermit
Gosnell—the Philadelphia man accused of murdering a female patient and several babies who were
“accidentally” born during abortion procedures—was such a case.
Gosnell’s crimes were uncovered by accident during an
FBI-DEA raid related to drug violations at Gosnell’s abortion clinic. What the
federal agents found was shocking: a
beautician assisting on late-term abortions, blood-covered floors, reused
disposable medical supplies, body parts stuffed in plastic bags. A grand jury
report aptly called Gosnell’s abortion clinic a “house of horrors.”
As the Associated
Press reported, state regulators had ignored
complaints about Gosnell (including 46 lawsuits filed against him) and made
just five inspections between 1979 and 2013. Such inspections are supposed to
be conducted annually.
The case provides a stark reminder that partial-birth and
post-birth abortions like those performed by Gosnell cause pain to the baby,
put the mother at risk and end a life—just like pre-birth abortions.
Myth #4: Abortion helps
prevent crime and poverty
This is among the ugliest myths surrounding Roe, yet it is openly espoused by academicsand tacitly embraced by other elites.
Trying to explain the drop in the national crime rate, one scholar
argues, “The very factors that drove
millions of American women to have an abortion also seemed to predict that
their children, had they been born, would have led unhappy and possibly
Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has exposed her own abortion-as-poverty-reduction
views: “At the time Roe was decided, there was concern about
population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to
have too many of…Roe was going to be
then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion.”
Medicaid, it pays
to recall, is a federal-state healthcare program for the poor.
Whether knowingly or not, those who espouse abortion as a
way to control poverty and crime—like some sort of demographic scythe—are
echoing the likes of Margaret Sanger. Generally considered the founder of Planned
Parenthood, Sanger believed in population control. But don’t take my word
for it. Consider Sanger in her own words: She advocated a “rigid
policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose
progeny is tainted” and called for public policiesto “cut down the rapid multiplication of the unfit and undesirable.”
This worldview is not only sickening, but untrue. Even if we
were to accept the callous premise of the abortion-as-poverty-reduction elites,
the reality is that the U.S. poverty rate, after 27 years of abortion on
demand, was exactly the samein 2000 as it was before Roe.
In fact, those who advocate abortion as a means to poverty and
crime reduction have it precisely backwards. Growth and life—not constraint and
abortion—are the best tools for fighting poverty. To overcome poverty, we need
people—people to build and work and create and produce. And since broken
homes—not poverty—serve as fuel for crime, public policies that bolster intact
families—not abortion—are the best way to prevent crime.
Far from “saving” society, this man-made epidemic of
abortion has exacted an incalculable cost on society. Yet Psalm 139 suggests that from
His perch outside the box of time, the Lord has kept a tally of all that might have been. “Your eyes saw my unformed body,” the
psalmist writes. “All the days ordained for me were written
in your book”—all the dreams unfulfilled, all the poems unwritten, all the
formulas and ideas untested, all the vaccines and breakthroughs unknown, all
the lives unlived.
would be doctors, teachers, bus drivers, inventors, rabbis, pastors, maids, soldiers,
artists, janitors, writers—and, yes, drug dealers, prostitutes, lowlifes,
murderers and addicts. Like anyone born into freedom, they’d face daily choices
that determine their destinies and shape their lives. Life wouldn’t be easy for
many of them. It wouldn’t be perfect for any of them. But that doesn’t mean their lives wouldn’t be
Myth #5: Abortions are
performed on teens and other women unready or unable to care for a child
In fact, 82 percentof abortions are performed on women aged 20 or older. Fully 55 percent of
abortions are performed on women who have been or are married or cohabitating.
And 58 percent of abortions are sought by women who live above the poverty
level. Whether or not a young woman believes she is ready or able to be a mom,
God—who believes in lifeand in adoption—knows
someone is ready and able to love her child.
Myth #6: Access to abortion
is about equality and empowerment
Roe’s supporters view abortion as a civil right that
empowers women. For them, it’s evidence of America’s progress toward equal
treatment of the sexes. It’s about freedom, choice, independence and equality. This
elevates abortion to an almost-sacramental kind of importance in their eyes. Thus,
overturning Roe is unacceptable, and
preserving the right to abortion is non-negotiable.
Those of us who oppose Roe, on the other hand, see abortion for what it is: the taking of
innocent life. As such, we view abortion as a grievous collective sin, as
evidence of societal collapse, as an aberration in American history—something
that, like slavery, was granted legal sanction but was never legitimate. For
us, the struggle against Roe is about
protecting life and securing that last frontier of civil rights—equality and
opportunity for the very weakest among us. Thus, the abortion status quo is unacceptable,
and Roe must be ended.
How do we break through this us-and-them divide? How
can we go on as a half-life nation?
We can pray for endurance. Opponents of slavery in the
United States fought against America’s original sin for almost a century.
We can pray for wisdom and discernment—for the ability to be
and gentle. Perhaps in this way, we can convince more Americans with
science, with moral suasion, with reason, with truth wrapped in love that the
right to life is the fundamental right from which all others flow, that real
power—for a nation and an individual—comes from protecting the weakest.
we can pray for help.As The Message wonderfully rephrasesChrist’s promise to his disciples about impossible causes, “No chance at all if you think you can
pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”Dowd writes a monthly column exploring the crossroads of faith and public policy for byFaith.