Though polls consistently show a majority of Americans supporting freedom of choice, abortion rights are facing their greatest attack since the Supreme Court decision Roe V. Wade legalized abortion in the US thirty years ago.
§ Since 1995 states have enacted 335 antichoice measures.
§ Increasing numbers of states are imposing parental notice or consent as a condition to minors obtaining abortions.
§ The Bush Administration is nominating strongly antichoice judges to federal courts, including Carolyn Kuhl, Jeffrey Sutton and Priscilla Owen.
§ Bills banning “partial-birth” abortion have been passed in the US Senate and introduced in ten states. The vaguely worded bills seek to criminalize safe and common abortion procedures throughout pregnancy.
§ The number of abortion providers in the US has fallen by nearly 66 percent in the past twenty years; currently only 13 percent of counties have abortion providers, and eighty-six of the nation’s 276 metropolitan areas don’t have any abortion providers at all.
Now more than ever it is essential that people who support full reproductive rights register their opposition to these rollbacks of Roe V. Wade. Contact your political representatives. Write a letter to your local paper. Call a talk-radio program. And join one of the many organizations that are working to guarantee continued, inexpensive access to abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Abortion Federation are all groups we heartily recommend. We’ve also compiled the following talking points for further information.
Reproductive Freedoms Are a Fundamental Human Right
It is a fundamental right of each individual to manage his or her fertility. Such reproductive rights are an integral part of women’s social, economic and political rights, and have been affirmed in numerous international treaties and conventions including CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women) and the Program of Action of the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development.
The Denial of Safe, Legal and Affordable Abortions Threatens Women’s Health
In rare cases, carrying a pregnancy to term can pose a serious health risk to a pregnant woman. Whether or not abortion is safe, legal or affordable, women still have recourse to it. When abortion is illegal they are forced into having underground and often unsafe operations. This greatly compromises the health and well-being of pregnant women. Each year at least 78,000 women die around the world due to complications from unsafe abortions (13 percent of maternal deaths), and hundreds of thousands more suffer short- and long-term disability. Legalizing abortion helps prevent this tragedy–within five years of legalization, abortion-related deaths decreased 85 percent in the United States.
Legalizing Abortion Does Not Increase its Incidence
Statistics show that women worldwide, when faced with an unwanted pregnancy, seek abortions regardless of the legality of the procedure, and whether or not safe services are available. Countries as diverse as Canada, Tunisia and Turkey liberalized their abortion laws without an increase in the abortion rate. Holland, though it has a non-restrictive abortion law and free abortions, has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world, far lower than many countries where abortion is illegal (e.g., Chile and Brazil).
Medical Abortion Is a Very Safe Procedure, Especially in the First Trimester (When 88 Percent of Abortions Take Place)
The health risks from an abortion are minimal.
– Less than 1 percent of women experience a major complication.
– The risk of death associated with childbirth is eleven times greater than the risk of death from an abortion.
When Women Are Not Free to Choose, Children Risk Coming into the World With Parents Who Are Not in a Position to Properly Look After Them
Though Abortion Remains Legal, Restricting Access to Abortion Penalizes the Poor, Who Are Less Able to Pay for Such Operations
Despite the fact that abortion is legal in the United States, access is decreasing as numerous barriers have been set up. These include consent forms, extended waiting periods and, most notably, the Hyde Amendment, passed into law in 1977. The legislation denies federal funding for abortions (except in cases of rape, incest or when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered) for poor women who rely on Medicaid, disabled women who rely on Medicare and Native American women who rely on the Indian Health Service for healthcare. In addition to these women, federal legislation denies access to abortions for Peace Corps volunteers, women in federal prison, women in the military, teenagers who participate in the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan, patients of Title X family-planning clinics, residents of the District of Columbia and federal employees and their families. Only fifteen states make state Medicaid monies available for nondiscriminatory funding of abortion. Abortions in the first trimester without complications start at $250-$350, and can run into the high hundreds or thousands of dollars. Without Medicaid funding, low-income women do not have equal access to a vital and legal medical procedure. Furthermore, welfare laws discourage states from providing assistance for abortions as well as to unwed mothers, placing low-income women in a double bind.
The Most Effective Way to Reduce Abortions Is to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies
Western and Eastern Europe have similar abortion laws but the West has far greater access to effective contraception. They also have, respectively, the lowest and highest abortion rates in the world. The Bush Administration’s decision to end contributions to the UN Population Fund, which funds family-planning projects in 142 countries, will perversely result in approximately 2 million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths.