One of the favorite tactics of pro-lifers–especially ones who are self-described “progressives”–is to accuse abortion rights supporters of being anti-child, hyperindividualistic, unwilling to protect the vulnerable and generally in favor of “death.” The truth is almost the opposite.
Around the world, there’s a general correlation between the availability of abortion and social concern for the well-being of children, as an upcoming publication from the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy vividly suggests. The fifty nations that permit abortion regardless of a woman’s reason for wanting one include countries with the world’s most extensive social provisions for children–Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada. The anti-choice camp is full of countries with astronomical infant mortality rates, no free schooling and no commitment to poor kids. Cuba, the only country in Latin America that permits abortion without restriction, has universal free healthcare and education, and the lowest infant mortality rates in that region. In anti-choice Egypt, Haiti, Guatemala, Indonesia, Paraguay and Brazil children live on the street.
In Europe, Poland restricts abortion while simultaneously embracing free market policies that consign ever more children to poverty. Ireland, which bars abortion except to save the mother’s life, included in its Constitution the comment that women serve the state from within the home but didn’t institute free secondary schooling until l967. As for “death,” the list of anti-choice nations dovetails nicely with the list of countries with capital punishment. Unfortunately, few Americans know or care what goes on outside God’s own country, so the fact that the Republican platform calls for replicating the abortion laws of such child-friendly nations as Afghanistan and El Salvador gets little attention.
Now comes Jean Ruth Schroedel, associate professor of political science at Claremont Graduate University, whose findings test whether opposition to abortion in the United States is motivated by concern for children or by a desire to restrict and control women. In her forthcoming book, Is the Fetus a Person? A Comparison of Policies in the Fifty States, Schroedel sets out three criteria. If states that restrict abortion care about protecting children, born and unborn, she theorizes, one would expect them to treat the fetus as a “person” in other areas of the law; to be more likely than pro-choice states to adopt policies to combat prenatal drug use and third-party killings (physical violence by someone other than the woman that results in fetal death); and to support wide-ranging benefits for children. If, on the other hand, their stance relates to antipathy toward women’s equality, one would expect to find that antiabortion states do not consistently treat the fetus as a person in other areas of the law; that women’s political, social and economic status there is lower than in pro-choice states; and that they are not more likely to have policies benefiting children.