Tag Archives: pro-choice

Abortion, Free Speech And Crime

It turns out there really is no such thing as a “single issue.” Life and reality are complicated. And inter-related.

Leave aside, for purposes of today’s discussion, the inconvenient historical research confirming that the real impetus of the “pro-life” movement was the desire to protect segregation, not fetuses. Leave aside also the breathtaking hypocrisy of people who obsess over those “unborn babies” but are entirely unconcerned about toddlers in cages at the border, the children drinking unsafe water in Flint and elsewhere, the children without enough to eat….Etc.

Let’s just talk about those dots we Americans don’t like to connect.

Let’s begin with free speech. Almost everyone claims to be a staunch believer in free speech–until, of course, someone is saying something with which they disagree, or even worse, fails to say something we want them to say. In North Dakota, lawmakers have passed a law to “protect the unborn” by requiring doctors to lie to their patients.

That was a bridge too far even for the famously timid and nonpolitical American Medical Association.

One of America’s leading medical organizations has filed a lawsuit to block a North Dakota abortion law requiring doctors to tell women that a medication-induced abortion can be “reversed,” an assertion medical experts say is scientifically unsound.

The American Medical Association has joined the Red River Women’s Clinic, the last abortion facility in the state, and its medical director, Kathryn Eggleston, to argue that the law violates doctors’ constitutional right to free speech by forcing them to lie to patients. The plaintiffs also contest an existing provisionin North Dakota law that requires a doctor to tell a woman that the abortion will “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” a statement they argue is ideologically biased and “forces physicians to act as the mouthpiece of the state.”

It’s the second time this year the AMA has sued over an abortion-related issue. In March, the organization filed a lawsuit in Oregon over a provision in the Trump administration’s new rules for the federal family planning program–rules that would, among other things, ban doctors and other health professionals from referring pregnant patients for abortions.

I can’t help wondering why we haven’t heard from all those opponents of national health care who are terrified of government control over their medical providers.

It isn’t just that efforts to deny women personal autonomy require intrusions–infringements–of other constitutional liberties. There are equally inconvenient sociological “dots” to connect as well.

Crime rates in the U.S. have fallen by about halfsince the early 1990s. A new working paperfrom the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that legalized abortion following the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 accounts for 45% of the decline in crime rates over the past three decades.

The paper’s authors, Stanford University economist John Donohueand University of Chicago economist Steve Levitt, take new data and run nearly the same model they used in their influential — and controversial — 2001 analysispublished in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, where they first suggested an association between abortion and crime.

In the 2001 paper, they found that legalized abortion appeared to account for up to half of the drop in rates of violent crime and property crime to that point. They also predicted crime would fall an additional 20% over the next two decades. Levitt featured the research in the 2005 bestseller Freakonomics. The new paper also looks at violent crime and property crime.

When you think about it–assuming you do think about it– it makes sense. As the authors put it, “unwanted children are at an elevated risk for less favorable life outcomes on multiple dimensions, including criminal involvement, and the legalization of abortion appears to have dramatically reduced the number of unwanted births.”

The authors examine crime in states that legalized abortion before Roe; crime in states with high and low abortion rates after Roe; differences in crime patterns in states among people born before and after Roe; and differences in arrest rates within states among people born before and after Roe.

If we really wanted to reduce the number of abortions, we would create a society that supported women and nurtured children–a society in which birth control was easily obtainable and babies were not additional, resented burdens to impoverished mothers.

But that might require connecting some dots……

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

It really is hard to keep up with all of the Trump Administration’s assaults on modernity–its disavowal of science, its attacks on public education, immigrants and poor people, and of course, its persistent efforts to turn back the social clock to “times gone by,” when straight white Protestant men were kings.

One aspect of that relentless attack on equality–what you might call the “Mike Pencification” of policy–is the administration’s current determination to de-fund Planned Parenthood. After all, women who have access to birth control and Pap smears are free to enter the workforce and even the political arena. Their ability to plan their pregnancies even allows them to engage in lustful sex without incurring God’s disapproval in the form of an unplanned child.

Shades of Margaret Atwood. As Michelle Goldberg recently opined in the New York Times, 

Donald Trump’s administration turns the Gilead model upside down. Its public image is louche and decadent, with tabloid scandal swirling around the president and many of his associates. This can make it hard to focus on the unprecedented lengths the administration is going to curtail American women’s reproductive rights and enrich the anti-abortion movement.

On Friday, the Trump administration escalated its war on Planned Parenthood and the women who use it. It released a rule prohibiting Title X, a federal family-planning program that serves around four million low-income women, from funding organizations that also provide abortions. Further, the administration instituted an American version of the global gag rule, barring doctors and nurses receiving Title X funds from making abortion referrals to their patients except in certain emergency situations.

The new approach mirrors what Pence did in Indiana–it diverts funding from organizations operating on the basis of sound medical science and sends the monies instead to religious groups, many of which are not just anti-choice, but anti-contraception.

The administration appears to think that religious anti-abortion groups, including those opposed to contraception, will fill some of the gaps. The new regulation jettisons a requirement that Title X clinics provide “medically approved” family planning services. That means that funds that once went to Planned Parenthood could flow instead to anti-abortion groups that promote so-called natural family planning. Unless the courts halt the new policy, struggling women who need refills on their birth control pills could get federally funded lectures on the rhythm method instead.

Goldberg calls this a “move to turn a lifesaving women’s health program into pork for the religious right.” (She’s right on the money; that was also Pence’s motive for Indiana’s voucher program, which takes millions of dollars from the state’s public school system in order to prop up the religious schools that make up 95% of the institutions accepting vouchers.)

The assault on Planned Parenthood joins the successful effort to pack the federal courts–including the Supreme Court– with anti-choice judges, and it doesn’t bode well for the continued viability of Roe v. Wade.

Ironically, sending the legality of abortion back to the states, as a decision to overturn Roe would do, would fall into the “be careful what you wish for” category. Republicans have benefitted greatly from the one-issue voters they cynically created. Should Roe be overturned, the zealots in states that continue to allow abortions  would turn their attention to those legislatures, but those would mostly be deep blue states where they would be unlikely to prevail. Anti-choice activists in red states with compliant legislatures would mostly cease to be activists; they would consider their “job” accomplished.

The majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproduction, however, would be highly likely to take their outrage to their polling places. Most of them have been complacent until now, assuming the courts would continue to protect women’s autonomy.

A “victory” for opponents of reproductive rights would be likely to do two things: tamp down the passions of the anti-choice warriors, and “activate” millions of Americans who would rightly see that victory as a theocratic threat. If survey research is to be believed, the latter group is much larger than the former.

Those people vote. And they sure  won’t be voting Republican.