Our Opinion: Making abortion irrelevant


The debate over abortion has been making plenty of news. State legislatures opposed to it, including Alabama’s and Mississippi’s, have passed restrictive laws in search of a court case to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling. And pressure from Democratic presidential candidates who favor virtually unlimited abortion made Joe Biden change his mind on whether federal funds should be used for the procedure.

Whether Roe remains the law or today’s U.S. Supreme Court overturns it, this debate of life vs. choice is not going away. Kathleen Parker, a columnist for The Washington Post, says we need to be talking about how to make abortion “irrelevant.” This, of course, means figuring out how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Not just reduce them, but completely prevent them.

“Given the more than 50 million abortions performed in the wake of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, it should be clear that we suffer a lack of imagination,” Parker wrote in a June 7 column. “Rather than arguing endlessly about choice vs. personhood, we should be talking about ways to end this primitive, barbaric procedure, which is risky, nasty and, unequivocally, life-ending.”

“In 21st-century America — with pills, patches, spermicides, morning-after medications, IUDs, condoms or some combination thereof — we should be well beyond all but the rare abortion. If big pharma can give men hours of sexual stamina, surely it can come up with a foolproof, fail-safe method of pregnancy prevention.”

It’s a good point. If the Supreme Court overturns the Roe ruling and nothing else changes, abortions will continue through some kind of underground network. The best way to stop that is to figure out how to guarantee pregnancy prevention. And let’s exclude abstinence from the discussion, since that ship has pretty much sailed away from American culture.

Here’s another good point from Parker’s column: In 2014, impoverished and low-income women accounted for 75 percent of abortions.

If these women lack sufficient access to birth control, she believes government should spend more to provide it for them.

That’s a controversial argument, and those who object are sure to say that it would encourage risky behavior. True enough, but the alternative is unwanted pregnancies and more abortions — not to mention increased government spending over a period of years for larger low-income families through programs that many politicians have been trying hard to reduce.

There is some good news about the subject. Namely, the rate of abortions in the United States, as tracked since the 1973 Roe ruling, has been steadily decreasing and has never been lower.

As of 2014, the latest information available, the rate was 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women. That’s half the rate from the high point of 1981, but it still means there were 926,000 abortions in 2014.

A million abortions per year is far too many. Court rulings and decisions of conscience can only do so much to decrease that number. It’s up to medical research to accomplish Parker’s worthy goal of making abortion irrelevant.