Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, the debate over the legality of abortion is arguably more divisive now than it was then. For many years now, this has been a wedge issue used to divide politicians and the electorate by requiring polar opposites, absolute agreement with no shades of gray. With its focus on the issue of legality, the abortion debate has become one of determining permissible times and methods instead of working to reduce the number of abortions, surely something that could not offend either side of the argument.
In the highly politicized rhetoric, pro-choice politicians sound disingenuous when they add “and rare” to their calls to keep abortions safe and legal. If pro-choice leaders truly desire that abortions should be rare while they remain legal, they should be eager to support legislation like that introduced by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), a member of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), a member of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus almost a year ago. That bill was designed to provide contraception education as well as support for new mothers and resources for foster care and adoption. That, and similar legislation currently are referred to committees.
Likewise, pro-life politicians rarely call for a reduction in the number of abortions instead taking an all-or-nothing approach that has the effect of allowing preventable abortions now while hoping for an end to all abortion later. Additionally, the belief that overturning Roe v. Wade will end abortion in America ignores the fact that it would return abortion to an issue fought in each state and conveniently forgets the history of back-alley and foreign abortions that happened prior to the court ruling.
A truly comprehensive pro-life stand would also take into consideration the quality of life for the newborn whose mother chose not to abort. In his book, "Our Endangered Values,” Jimmy Carter writes, "Two thirds of women who have abortions claim their primary reason is that they cannot afford a child." He cites statistics from the Alan Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and their latest report , "The most prevailing common factor is poverty, with six out of ten abortions occurring among those with incomes below $28,000 per year for a family of three." A comprehensive plan to alleviate poverty would have the added benefit of reducing a significant factor contributing to the rate of abortions.
We should not allow medical, ethical and religious issues regarding such things as determining when life begins, or when a fetus is viable to distract us from the practical ways we can reduce abortions today. The vision of a day when every child is a wanted child, who has equal access to opportunity is one that both sides of this polarized debate ought to be able to embrace.