Safe, Legal, and Rare

Former President Clinton famously said that abortion should be kept “safe, legal and rare.” I’m thinking of that in light of this recent news:

LONDON – Women are just as likely to get an abortion in countries where it is outlawed as they are in countries where it is legal, according to research published Friday.

In a study examining abortion trends from 1995 to 2003, experts also found that abortion rates are virtually equal in rich and poor countries, and that half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe.

The study was done by Gilda Sedgh of the Guttmacher Institute in the United States and colleagues from the World Health Organization. It was published in an edition of The Lancet medical journal devoted to maternal health.

“The legal status of abortion has never dissuaded women and couples, who, for whatever reason, seek to end pregnancy,” Beth Fredrick of the International Women’s Health Coalition in the U.S. said in an accompanying commentary.

Abortion accounts for 13 percent of maternal mortality worldwide. About 70,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions. An additional 5 million women suffer permanent or temporary injury.

“The continuing high incidence of unsafe abortion in developing countries represents a public health crisis and a human rights atrocity,” Fredrick wrote.

It would follow that laws restricting abortion are there for the sake of those who write, pass, and advocate for them. They have nothing to do with the women seeking them, much less the fetuses they carry.

That’s why President Clinton’s words on this always made sense to me. As to how that’s done, the answers are available.

Rising contraceptive use results in reduced abortion incidence in settings where fertility itself is constant (e.g. the USA).

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).

And so to all those who truly wish there were fewer abortions, as I do, there appear to be two commitments required of us.

1) Commit to making sure contraceptives are freely available.
2) Commit to ending poverty.

Everything else seems to be just talking.


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