A Different Narrative on Abortion

Saturday will mark the 38th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case, Roe vs. Wade, and as such, pro-life and pro-choice advocates alike will acknowledge the date– if in diametrically opposite ways.  While the conversation involving abortion has long revolved around a question of individual rights, perhaps it is time to change the narrative to one that might be more appealing to some common consensus.

The question proposed by the Wall Street Journal today portends to be nearly as controversial as the long-standing debate over the issue itself, but it is a question that has some logical basis for consideration in each camp, allowing for a potential area of consensus for what has seemed to be a black and white issue.

Are babies better than abortions?

It is an interesting question, and one that on the surface might seem to be biased towards a pro-life perspective.  However, it is important not to jump to such a conclusion and instead ask, how might this question be relevant even to hardcore pro-choice advocates?  The answer is implied withing the question itself.  At what point do the amount of abortions in this country become too much?  Most pro-choice advocates would– I hope– agree that a 100% abortion rate in this country would be unacceptable, but moving down from a 100% rate, how much is too much?  Is 80% too much? 70%?  How about 40%?  In light of new statistics, this question is especially relevant to the overall debate:

Yet a simple figure released earlier this month by the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a private nonprofit organization, provokes a different question. After crunching the latest statistics from New York City’s Health Department, the foundation reported that 41% of pregnancies (excluding miscarriage) in New York ended in abortion. That’s double the national rate.

So again the question: As a society, does this figure say anything about the choice between a baby and abortion? Even for those who believe the choice for an abortion belongs to a woman alone and ought to be unfettered by city, state or federal law, is there any ratio such a person would say is too high?

The question becomes even more compelling when broken down by race. For Hispanics, the abortion rate was 41.3%—i.e., more than double the rate for whites. For African-Americans the numbers are still more grim: For every 1,000 African-American live births in New York, there were 1,489 abortions.

Barring an substantial changes to the political viability of banning abortion in America, it would seem that the prospects of a victory for pro-life activists are nowhere in sight.  So, instead of fighting a black and white battle alone, perhaps a new short-term goal can bring some satisfaction.

We often focus too much on the big picture in a way that provides goals which are desired, but not particularly feasible.  It would be particularly hard for anyone to argue that New York City’s abortion rate at double the national average is an acceptable figure.  The primary reason for a lack of such an argument is because that number is undoubtedly the result of women not receiving proper counseling or encouragement from her community.  It makes little sense to reason that people in New York are simply completely different than the average person in America, but it does make sense to question the system that allows for such a skewed statistic.  As William McGurn writes in the WSJ article, while some mothers may regret having their children, the far more common reaction is that women regret having an abortion due to a low self-esteem and lack of community support.

So, in terms of the efficacy of success for moral arguments, there is little chance to bridge that vast divide.  However, perhaps we can examine what McGurn calls “the possibilities that exist in all human communities.”  In other words, there is some common ground to be had in the short-term battle over abortion, and might all sides be happy if abortions that women regret are eliminated from skewed figures like the massive rate in New York?  It is not an illogical conversation, and if perhaps it does not satisfy the moral absolutists on either side, at least it would bring us towards a workable solution that benefits the entire community.

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