As far as scope and magnitude goes, the issue of abortion is one of the most polarizing and bitterly fought cultural battles of our time. From throwing feces to straight-up riots, it’s safe to say it’s an argument that has a large amount of unbridled hate on both sides. Those on the side of the pro-life movement point to recent Texas legislation and have named it a stunning success. And while limiting the amount of abortion clinics is certainly a victory, staunch supporters of the movement seem to have forgotten one important factor: people have abortions for a reason. Until we deal with the root problem at hand, our battle will be long and futile.
Ask a doctor and he’ll tell you that one of the more difficult problems they deal with is getting a patient to distinguish a symptom from a root problem. You wouldn’t give someone with brain cancer Tylenol and call it even, so why would we work so hard, and spend so much money on abortion while ignoring the reasons women get abortions in the first place? According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2005, 73% of women seeking an abortion did so because they felt they would be unable to provide for a child. Further research shows that nine months of pregnancy costs about $3,000. And that doesn’t include the cost of caring for the baby once it’s born.
Going back to the recent Texas legislation, pro-lifers are ecstatic as clinic after clinic shuts down. Yet what is the next step? For while we have reduced the number of avenues for abortions, the reason they still exist remains. We haven’t worked to decrease the costs of medical care; we haven’t spent billions of dollars helping young women support themselves, and even worse, we have not spent time with the women themselves. Liberal media constantly points to conservatives as “anti-women’s health.” And while in most cases these accusations are exaggerated and ill-informed, they bring up a valid point: we spend so much energy trying to rid ourselves of a symptom that we forget about the root cause. Bill Clinton once famously stated that “abortions should be safe, legal, and rare.” There are numerous people who are pro-choice that admit that they view abortion as an unfortunate but necessary evil. If we were to spend our efforts on supporting pregnant women, we would make the decision to have an abortion in the first place a hard one.
In our passion to right a wrong, let’s remember that symptoms are hints of a root issue. Helping eliminate the reason for abortions would not only be an effective strategy, but one that would most likely face much less opposition from opposing parties.