What bothers me even more than bad political theater is something more fundamental: why is the need for abortion still so widespread? In 2007, there were 1.21 million abortions in the U.S. If there were no cheap and reliable methods of contraception, I could understand the fierce defense of easy and common abortion. But condoms are readily available, and cheap: less than thirty-five cents a piece from Amazon (with the added bonus of substantially reducing the spread of STDs). Even if you have no moral qualms about it, abortion is a terribly inefficient method of birth control: first-trimester abortions cost $350 to $550. That will buy a lot of condoms, won’t it?
Even ignoring the cost differential, women have a lot to lose, even with abortion readily available. There are significant infection risks, damage to the uterus or cervix, and the anesthesia risks. Why would you not use condoms, and use abortion instead? I think I know the answer: many women do not feel that they can tell a sexual partner, “You want sex? Here’s a condom.” (I am discounting rape because there were 84,767 rapes in 2010. About 8% of rapes result in a pregnancy; this would be no more than 0.5% of abortions.)
It also does not say much for men that they are not doing their part. When I was young, getting a woman pregnant out of wedlock would have been at least embarrassing. You would have felt obligated to get married; if nothing else, because you were going to be paying child support payments for eighteen years. (You might as well enjoy the benefits if you were going to be paying the costs.)
In that sense, making abortion readily available is valuable not only to irresponsible women, but also to irresponsible men. And this may be the saddest part of this whole madness — that we are rewarding the hopelessly irresponsible. If you think that I am exaggerating the extent of this irresponsibility, let me share with you a couple of quotes from a 2005 Los Angeles Times article about an abortionist in Arkansas.
His first patient of the day, Sarah, 23, says it never occurred to her to use birth control, though she has been sexually active for six years. When she became pregnant this fall, Sarah, who works in real estate, was in the midst of planning her wedding. “I don’t think my dress would have fit with a baby in there,” she says.
The last patient of the day, a 32-year-old college student named Stephanie, has had four abortions in the last 12 years. She keeps forgetting to take her birth control pills. Abortion “is a bummer,” she says, “but no big stress.”
These outrageous statements are part of what moved me from the reluctantly pro-choice to the reluctantly pro-life side. I can sympathize with a 14 year old who could not figure out how to say no to her horny boyfriend. I can sympathize with a rape victim. I can sympathize with someone who had a contraception failure. I have no sympathy for men and women who refuse to be responsible.