"Debunked?" Even More Abortion Thoughts... ('cuz you can't get enough!)

I got an e-mail from my flesh-and-blood friend James recently - he's a student at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. James wrote:

For a number of years I have used the line that abortions increased under Bush but decreased under Clinton... Someone challenged me on my sources, and I realized I did not know where this came from. I got curious and found it originated at Fuller... from an ethicist on staff named Glen Stassen, who came to the conclusion that abortions increased under Bush 2. In the years following this study a number of groups have disproved this statement and now the idea floats around as a kind of "urban legend." Stassen himself has even said that his statement was not right.

A study by the Guttmacher Institute (not a conservative group; named after the founder of Planned Parenthood) found that after a highpoint in 1990, there has been a steady decline in the abortion rate. That decline was the greatest in the Clinton years but has continually declined ever since. In fact the abortion rate dropped steadily each for the first 7 of 8 years that Reagan was in office it went down a total of 2.5 percent ...Since 1980 the rate has been in constant decline except in 1988 and 1990 when it went up.

Anyway, I just thought that this was kind of interesting. The biggest spike in the abortion rate happened in the 70s under both a Democrat and a Republican.

These are the most helpful sources that I found... Check them out and tell me what you think:

I apologize if I have been quoting information that has been, itself, a misquote. But I have some thoughts about James' e-mail, and the information he points to.

First, of course abortion rates were highest in the 1970s, shortly after legalization. The floodgates were opened! So I think that has little bearing, particularly on who was president at the time.

As years have gone by, it's interesting to note that abortion rates have continually decreased (yes, contrary to my originally-mentioned statistic). Here's a graph from the Guttmacher group:

Number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, by year

The Guttmacher website goes on to say:

The abortion rate among women living below the federal poverty level
($9,570 for a single woman with no children) is more than four times that of women above 300% of the poverty level (44 vs. 10 abortions per 1,000 women). This is partly because the rate of unintended pregnancies among poor women (below 100% of poverty) is nearly four times that of women above 200% of poverty (112 vs. 29 per 1,000 women).

The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child...

Even if the Clinton Presidency wasn't a "magic pill" for slowing abortion rates (I never quite suggested that) it seems quite obvious from such statistics that Evangelical politics regarding abortion are entirely backward. The priorities are all wrong - reducing abortions starts with taking care of people - particularly at-risk and low-income women.

Hmmm... that almost sounds Biblical... taking care of "the least of these, caring for "widows and orphans." How surprising!

http://www.factcheck.org/ summarizes:

Politicians from Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Howard Dean have recently contended that abortions have increased since George W. Bush took office in 2001. This claim is false. It's based on an an opinion piece that used data from only 16 states. A study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute of 43 states found that abortions have actually decreased. Update, May 26: The author of the original claim now concedes that the Guttmacher study is "significantly better" than his own.

So as I read through this information, what can I conclude? Well, it seems to me that while abortion rates may not have increased during George W. Bush's administration, the downward trend certainly slowed. In fact, the Clinton years still seem to demonstrate the most rapid decline in abortion rates in decades.

This at least suggests that Pro-Choice presidencies do not necessarily result in more abortions. And it certainly follows that Pro-Life presidencies do not tend to decrease abortion rates any more rapidly than their opposing counterparts.

All of this frankly brings me back to where I started: abortion does not seem to be impacted much by ideological stances concerning itself. If Christians want to make a meaningful impact for the cause of a viable, intellectually honest human life ethic, they must begin looking for the causes of unwanted pregnancies and their terminations: things like desperation, hopelessness and fear. The love of Christ, working through us, can have an impact on these things. But let's be honest, some folks feel more validated as political "warriors" - it gets them on evening news, picket signs in hand. It allows for an emotional catharsis. And it keeps the world black-and-white; good-and-evil. Simple and compartmentalized.

James, I love you man! Looking forward to a Christmas bear-hug when you come up this month! Thanks for doing the fact-checking... not really my tendency!


D.C. Cramer said...

Hello again. I'm not a CBMW fan myself. My sarcasm may not have been clear enough though!

Peter said...

Whew! That's a relief - I should have looked closer at the rest of your blog content, DC. Thanks for the reassurance! Keep in touch,

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