The controversy over abortion has developed along two lines: pro-life or pro-choice (read: conservative or liberal, religious or feminist, republican or democrat). As far as most people are concerned, you can either be one or the other. Just like the United States' two-party system, you have to pick a side and there isn't much room for a "gray" area.
On Sunday, January 14th, Chicago's streets welcomed 6,000 pro-life citizens for the city's largest March for Life to date. On the following Sunday, January 20th those same streets were filled with 300,000 pro-women supporters of the Women's March.
I suspect that there was not a lot of overlap in participants.
To be clear, the Women's March handles a wide variety of women's issues, not just abortion rights. Anyhow, my point is that as thousands marched over the last couple weekends, I realized that my views on controversial matters (such as white feminism, co-opted intersectional feminism, and the topic of this article: abortion) don't always fit so neatly on picket signs.
In my ideal world, no woman would ever abort her unborn child. But instead of marching at rallies for pro-life legislation to be passed, I want to spend my time creating the kind of world in which having, raising, and supporting a child is equally accessible to all populations, especially those most vulnerable to abortion.
History and research show that anti-abortion legislation does not necessarily change the number of abortions that take place. What DOES affect the abortion rate, however, is increased services and increased access to services for women.
I would argue, then, that the best way to push a "pro-life" agenda is to push for more accessible, comprehensive health services for all, especially those populations most vulnerable to abortion.
For example, according to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates are highest among economically disadvantaged women, partly because of high pregnancy rates among poor and low-income women and partly because of decreased access to health services. Additionally, 34% of all women who had abortions already had two or more children. Comprehensive sex education, family planning counseling, access to healthcare, and free childcare, then, are possibly more valid options for lowering abortion rates than simply outlawing abortion.
Let us not forget that black women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, and over half of these deaths are preventable. Furthermore, according to the 2010 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports, African Americans have more than twice the infant mortality rate than non-Hispanic whites do (try 2.4 times).
These health disparities are severely affecting the black community, which not only has worse access to care but worse quality healthcare across the United States, according to the 2010 reports. It's no wonder then, that black women are ALSO disproportionally represented in abortion statistics: In the year 2000, 49 out of every 1,000 black women had an abortion-- almost four times higher than the abortion rate for white women (13 out of every 1,000 women).
My point is that we should be targeting the most vulnerable populations with healthcare, not angry white feminists with political rallies, when we seek to decrease abortion rates. We should use our money to buy diapers for disadvantaged mothers rather than to support campaigns for pro-life legislation. We should improve the foster care system so that abortion doesn't seem like the better alternative. We should use our political clout to increase services and access to services for women, especially poor women of color, instead of using our resources to try to overturn Roe v Wade.
Our resources are far better spent "on the ground", supporting women and future mothers.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, almost 30% of all women having abortions are Catholic, and an additional 43% are Protestant. To me, this means that, as believers, we need to take a step back and figure out how to truly help expecting mothers in our churches. Obviously, just telling women that "abortion is wrong" isn't cutting it.
I understand that legislation is often the first step to social change, and abortion contradicts Catholic morals. However, do not forget that legislation cannot on its own fix the "abortion problem". We need individuals, churches, and governments willing to step up in pragmatic solidarity with expecting mothers. We need to create a world where expecting mothers are supported rather than forgotten. In my ideal world, no woman would ever abort her unborn child because she would never feel as if she had to.
This perspective is a lot more nuanced than "pro-life" vs "pro-choice". But it is the only way to save our women and girls-- and their unborn babies.