USA (MNN) — The topic of abortion is front-and-center this week with several events and anniversaries pushing it to top of our news-feeds. Yesterday, January 22nd was the 41st anniversary of Roe v Wade, the court decision that made abortion legal in the United States. Additionally, the 44th annual March for Life is slated to take place this Friday, January 27th in Washington, D.C. — ironically, on the heels of the Women’s March last weekend that dropped a women’s pro-life group’s partnership.
According to a new report released last Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, the annual number of abortions in the United States has fallen below the one million mark. The data comes from surveys of abortion clinics in 2014, and is the lowest that rate has been since 1974.
Pro-choice and pro-life camps alike are quick to claim responsibility for the drop in abortion numbers. Has increased use in contraceptives led to the decline? Or is it because of greater efforts to provide pregnancy care and alternative options to abortion?
Ed Rivet with Right to Life of Michigan says, “There’s a wide range of factors, and I won’t dismiss the fact that they have added the IUD, the intrauterine device, as a contraceptive in recent past and it does tend to be more effective. But that’s just one factor…. There are a variety of factors that are leading women to just be more pro-life.”
One factor Rivet suggests may be impacting the numbers is the ‘Ultrasound Generation’. “Teenagers today are more pro-life than ever and they’re rejecting abortion. While we’ve seen in the state of Michigan, for example, abortion stayed fairly stable over the last four or five years among 20-somethings and 30s, they continue to go down among minors. And so it’s a generation that’s rejecting abortion, it’s a generation that’s what I call the ‘Ultrasound Generation’…. The first picture of them was the ultrasound their mother got of them. So they have an identity of themselves before birth and they’re just not buying the abortion line like previous generations have.”
Furthermore, there have been additional measures implemented over the years to monitor abortion clinics. “As states have done more to regulate abortion and the clinics are licensed and they’re more carefully monitored and inspected, the clinics are more in compliance.”
Another factor that could be impacting the abortion rate is the number of pro-life legislative acts that have taken place, and the growth in information coming out about the pre-born with scientific advances.
“As we just saw in Ohio in December, they passed a bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This is being passed in a number of states saying at five months, at twenty weeks, this baby is fully capable of feeling pain and yet abortion is still legal. And as we have those kind of ‘public policy’ debates about the legality of abortion, people are getting a greater awareness that the pro-choice position of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU is really a very extreme position and they’re not comfortable with it.”
Life Matters Worldwide’s Tom Lothamer also offers his perspective on advances in holistic care for women in the pro-life community. “We feel this [decrease in abortion numbers] is a result of many many more pregnancy care ministries throughout this country who are serving women with love and compassion and showing them options other than just abortion. But not only asking them to consider this, but they’re also providing care for them in many different areas of their life. And so we believe this is one area or one reason why these numbers are down.”
Statistics in recent years do show a decline in unplanned pregnancies. In a previous report, Guttmacher revealed that in 2008, 54 out of every 1,000 women aged 15-44 had an unplanned pregnancy. In 2011, that rate dropped to 45 unwanted pregnancies out of every 1,000 women. However, the rate of unplanned pregnancies that ended in abortion remained the same, around 42 percent.
Pro-choice advocates have pointed to the decrease in unwanted pregnancies to say, therefore, the increase in contraceptive availability must be having the greatest impact on abortion rates.
However, The Atlantic reports that a company keeping records on the pharmaceutical industry revealed that between 2009 and 2013, there was only a slight increase in contraceptive use by women. Prescriptions for the most popular contraceptive pill only went up from 93 million to 95 million over those five years.
Greater access to contraceptives in health care may contribute to the decline in birth and abortion rates, but it cannot account for it as largely as pro-choicers would like to make it seem. And it does not negate the positive impact that pro-life policies and increased understandings of life before birth are having on society.
When it comes to protecting the lives of unborn children, these lowering abortion statistics can be encouraging. But there is still a lot of work to be done. It can be tempting as Christians to start conversations about the pre-born with the Bible.
However, Lothamer suggests, “One of the things we have to remember in approaching this discussion is we can’t come out with our Bible quotes necessarily, because we may be speaking to someone who doesn’t agree with the Scriptures or doesn’t understand the Scriptures. So we have to try to deal with it as much as possible from a moralogical point.
“I have a friend, Scott Klusendorf, who has developed over the years what he calls the SLED Test, and in five minutes you can defend the pro-life position…. We have to ask the question: in the womb, is this an actual child, a human being? Or is it a blob of tissue? And that makes all the difference,” explains Lothamer.
“All these things you can actually discuss with people and become reasonable. If you can learn those types of appropriate arguments that are not heated, but merciful and compassionate, you can actually talk with these people and help them to actually see the logic.”
It’s one thing to understand and agree that, morally, abortion is wrong. It’s another thing to think it needs to be legislated and restricted at a legal level. So why do pro-life ministries and organizations think abortion should be reduced and eventually banned by the government?
Rivet says, “I revert to a couple of basic principles. Our pledge of allegiance says we want a society with liberty and justice for all. My first question then, if they bring in government and its role, I say, ‘Well, what is just about abortion? From the perspective of the unborn child — and you were once an unborn child — what is just about abortion?’ There’s no justice in it because it’s the big guy picking on the little guy; it’s the adult, grown-up people who are supposed to be rational and mature killing someone who did nothing, and there’s no justice in that. I say that this country was about rights for all and our founding fathers said there were these inalienable rights that start with life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and our country was founded on this idea that everyone should be treated equally and everyone’s right to life is equal. This is government’s primary job.”
Lothamer also adds they want to approach these conversations with a heart of compassion, not just for the unborn children, but also — and even especially — for the mothers and fathers who are hurting or scared or confused.
“From a Christian perspective, we understand that all humans are created in the image of God and that’s sacred to us, so we want to help women understand the options, because choosing abortion has tremendous implications emotionally, it has implications from a medical perspective (and there’s all kinds of research out on that) and the long-term effects of abortion. I believe we’re the compassionate ones in the sense of saying we want to help women fully understand what they’re about to do, if they’re considering abortion, and offer them alternatives…. Caring for that child, caring for the mother and the father, adoption, there’s all kinds of things.
“We are offering compassion and mercy and trying to help women make a choice that we believe long-term is going to be greatly healthy for them emotionally, physically, and otherwise.”
Both Right to Life of Michigan and Life Matters Worldwide network with pregnancy care centers. If you need to be connected to a pregnancy resource or center near you, Right to Life of Michigan has a toll free number they encourage you to call: 1-800-57-WOMAN.
Life Matters Worldwide also offers further educational resources, both for those interested in pro-life issues and for churches that want to better understand their role in pro-life ministry. Click here to visit Life Matters Worldwide’s website.
Ultimately, as the Church, we need to keep being the loving hands of Christ — for pregnant women needing help, for families struggling financially, for single mothers feeling alone, for couples in an adoption journey, and for women dealing with post-abortion trauma.
“This is an issue that is not going to go away through some type of compromise…. The pro-life people are going to continue to offer care and compassion and mercy to all people, regardless of who they are. And even if they’ve had an abortion, we’re still going to be there, unlike the abortionists, we’re still going to be there to offer care for healing and restoration of their lives. So we’re going to keep doing that in the power of the Spirit of God.”