Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Encouraging Abortion

Rick Santorum's controversial remarks are coming fast and furious.   Late to the game, but a couple of hours before tonight's Repub presidential debate, it's still not too late for me to criticize one of Rick Santorum's comments from a campaign stop Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.     CBS News noted he

lambasted the president's health care law requiring insurance policies to include free prenatal testing, "because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society."

Prenatal testing provides more information to the woman and encourages some to have abortions.     And, for those who are relieved to find no birth defects in the fetus, it deters some women from terminating their pregnancy.       A Republican politician who is right even less than Santorum, Sarah Palin, suggested another advantage of pre-natal testing.     During her 2008 campaign for the presidency, before giving birth to Trig, Palin stated:    "I was grateful to have all those months to prepare. I can't imagine the moms that are surprised at the end. I think they have it a lot harder."

Of course, neither Palin nor Santorum would acknowledge one of the best strategies to reduce the incidence of abortion.       In October, 2009 a blog noted the non-profit, pro-choice Guttmacher Institute released a report which found  

... that total abortions occurred at "roughly equal rates" in countries where they are legal and where they are highly restricted, which means that laws outlawing abortion are serving only to drive women to have the procedure in riskier places and with riskier methods. But at a news conference in London, Guttmacher president Sharon Camp cited the Netherlands as an example for all other countries to follow. It has the lowest abortion rate in the world: about 1 percent of women have had an abortion in the past year compared with a worldwide average of about 3 percent.

The Dutch? With their legalized prostitution and ultraliberal abortion laws? How can that be? I did a little research and found out that the Netherlands has not only the lowest abortion rate but the lowest rate of teen pregnancy. In fact, the country has held this distinction for decades. Researchers credit strategies like sex education in schools, discussion of sexuality in the mass media, and easy access to contraception. One study pointed out that "acceptance of contraception preceded liberalization of abortion" and that Dutch citizens accept "abortion only as a last resort."

Unless you have an (R) after your name and are an elected official or running for president, you are not surprised that widespread access to birth control decreases the frequency of abortion.     Still, it's startling that abortions occur approximately as often in countries in which termination of pregnancy is forbidden as in countries in which it is permitted.       Which, ironically, makes the generally pro-choice Barack Obama an anti-abortion, and Rick Santorum an aggressively pro-abortion, public official.

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