“Abortion” is a polarizing word in the United States to an extent not seen in any other country where a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body is a given. The reason for this is not that American culture is innately conservative. Rather, Republicans picked abortion in the 1970s as a winning political issue to appeal to reliable voters, especially those subscribing to Catholic or evangelical beliefs.
Since then, media channels controlled by the right have consistently ramped up the rhetoric around reproductive rights by appropriating the term “pro-life” to make it easy to demonize political opponents. This has been such a successful strategy that the entire conversation around women’s reproductive rights has been hijacked to focus solely on a candidate’s stance on abortion.
Attacks on Planned Parenthood have centered around this one service that it provides, completely ignoring all the other health services that benefit women of every age. And this year, it is expected that the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, guaranteeing women the right to choose, will be overturned by a hyperpartisan Supreme Court. In the 21st century! Meanwhile, GOP-governed states around the country are already in a race to see who can enact the most stringent abortion restrictions.
Yet, what are the facts around abortion?
Fact: While choosing an abortion is not an easy decision, there is no evidence to suggest having an abortion itself causes psychological damage. On the contrary, limiting abortion access leads to poor maternal and child health outcomes. So much for being “pro-life!”
Fact: States that have the toughest abortion restrictions often have the poorest supportive policies for maternal and childcare.
Fact: States that restrict abortion have a higher maternal mortality than states that either protect or are neutral towards abortion.
Fact: Abortions have declined at a faster rate under Democratic presidents than Republican presidents. For example, during the Bush administration, abortions declined by 3%. Contrast that with the Obama administration: the abortion rate dropped by 24% between 2008 and 2016 — resulting in 200,000 fewer abortions every year. The reasons for this are many: more economic prosperity, more access to family planning and better educational outreach. The chart below makes it clear that even on a state-by-state basis, states run by Democrats have better policies to support women and children.
If we look at the track record of Republicans and Democrats around reproductive rights, it becomes clear that the fuss over abortion is, at the very least, a manufactured issue, and, at its worst, a way for conservatives to roll back rights for women. It’s time for our vote on this issue to be influenced by the facts, not emotional grandstanding.
Become better informed about the facts around reproductive rights. The resources below link to fact sheets around the topic so you understand the arguments and how to advocate for them. Keep checking back here for TSB activities around this issue.