Abortion rates are on a major decline across the United States, and while social conservatives will point to this as proof that anti-abortion laws that were passed in red states work, it’s not as simple as that. While abortion rates were down in nearly all states that data was available for, Louisiana and Michigan actually saw a large increase in the number of abortions performed, which seems to make the issue confusing. I have an explanation for that, which we will get to later.
As I’ve mentioned before, the conservative members of my family are quite active in the push to restrict or even eliminate women’s health care rights across the country. From the time I was a child until my teens, I was indoctrinated into that campaign by the religious right, and I was even involved in Republican elections campaigns for some far-right candidates like Mike Farris’s failed run in Virginia for lieutenant governor in 1993. Needless to say, I know nearly every talking point from the anti-abortion movement, because I was required to memorize them as a child.
From the AP survey:
Abortions have declined in states where new laws make it harder to have them — but they’ve also waned in states where abortion rights are protected, an Associated Press survey finds. Nearly everywhere, in red states and blue, abortions are down since 2010.
Explanations vary. Abortion-rights advocates attribute it to expanded access to effective contraceptives and a drop in unintended pregnancies. Some foes of abortion say there has been a shift in societal attitudes, with more women choosing to carry their pregnancies to term.
Several of the states that have been most aggressive in passing anti-abortion laws — including Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma — have seen their abortion numbers drop by more than 15 percent since 2010. But more liberal states such as New York, Washington and Oregon also had declines of that magnitude, even as they maintained unrestricted access to abortion.
Nationwide, the AP survey showed a decrease in abortions of about 12 percent since 2010. (Source)
Louisiana and Michigan both stand out as exceptions to the downward trend, and this is where the logic of anti-abortion activists starts to fall apart. Granted, their increase does come from women traveling from out of state from places like Ohio, Mississippi or Texas. Here in Louisiana, the only remaining clinics are in Shreveport which is just over the border from Texas, and in New Orleans which is a short drive from the Louisiana/Mississippi state line across the Lake Ponchartrain bridge.
Louisiana also has severe restrictions on abortion, but that isn’t going to stop someone who has the time and resources to make the trip from Texas to Shreveport – or to New Orleans from Mississippi where only one clinic remains in operation, despite attacks by both lawmakers and vandals.
The only states with significant increases in abortions since 2010 are Republican-led Louisiana and Michigan, which have passed laws intended to restrict abortion. Louisiana — where abortions increased 12 percent between 2010 and 2014 — was recently honored by Americans United for Life as the No. 1 state in taking steps to reduce access to abortion.
In both Louisiana and in Michigan, where abortions rose by 18.5 percent, the increases were due in part to women coming from other states where new restrictions and clinic closures have sharply limited abortion access. Anti-abortion groups said many Ohio women were going to Michigan and many Texas women to Louisiana. (Source)
Remember how gun fanatics point to gun violence in Chicago as their evidence that strict gun laws don’t work? Well, let’s apply their same logic to this situation. Women will go to other states if they need an abortion badly enough and they have the means to travel, just like gun traffickers go out of state to purchase guns in states like Georgia, which they then sell illegally back in Chicago or New York. If women don’t have access to reproductive services, or if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, they will seek out an illegal “back alley abortion” like they did before 1972.
If the people who claim to be “pro-life” really wanted to reduce abortions rates even further, they would concentrate on improving sex education in schools instead of pushing for “abstinence only” curriculum, which doesn’t work, and has been ruled to be incomplete and medically inaccurate information by a California judge. They would also push to expand access to contraception, instead of pushing to allow companies to deny coverage by citing religious beliefs as cited in last year’s Hobby Lobby case. These same activists would also demand wage equity for women, and they would protest cuts to government assistance programs, instead of cheering every time another programs is slashed while we spend more money on our national defense budget than the next seven countries combined.
I think there are some people in the anti-abortion movement who do mean well, and are genuinely “pro-life.” However, they’re so brainwashed by religious and political ideology that they’re ironically helping to increase the need for abortions, and they’re too blind to see it.
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