Advocates of legalized abortion bristle when pro-life advocates call them pro-abortion. Their typical position is best defined by President Clinton’s position on the procedure: that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”
A 2003 CNN poll did show some amazing results regarding abortion restriction questions asked in straightforward ways. Americans oppose abortion in the second (68%) and third (84%) trimesters. Americans likewise support informed consent laws (88%), a 24-hour waiting period (78%), parental consent for minors (73%), and even spousal notification for married women (72%).
Yet not many on the left advocate for these policies. Indeed, each restriction on abortion only passes as a result of herculean efforts to shepherd the bill through the legislature and then fend off years of court challenges. While many Americans are sincerely pro-choice, the leftist groups that claim to represent pro-choice Americans have shown themselves to be sincerely pro-abortion.
First consider the Super Bowl ad starring college football standout Tim Tebow. The ad is a thirty-second spot produced by Focus on the Family that tells the story of how Tebow’s mother continued her pregnancy despite complications that threatened her life. Abortion rights groups have gone nuclear with calls for the ad not to be aired and attacks on Tebow and Focus on the Family. (A second ad, also featuring Tebow, was announced by the pro-life group on the Friday before the Super Bowl.)
The ad doesn’t advocate for or against any legislation. It only encourages women to choose to continue their pregnancies. If the goal of pro-choice America is to reduce the number of abortions, why does anyone have a problem with the ad?
Consider also the attempts to crackdown on crisis pregnancy centers with nuisance laws. In Baltimore, the city approved an ordinance requiring pregnancy centers to post signs indicating they don’t do abortions or offer contraception, but the city refused to require that abortion clinics inform patients they don’t offer abortion alternatives. In Washington state, legislation backed by the National Abortion Right Action League and Planned Parenthood would regulate crisis pregnancy centers, which provide $15 million in free services to women in crisis pregnancies.
The argument for this regulation centers on a few allegations of inaccurate information being provided. Some of this is not so much inaccurate as it is disputed between the two sides of the abortion debate, or the information is accurate but politically incorrect. One witness at a committee hearing said that one pregnancy center told a woman that some studies showed a link between abortion and breast cancer. The truth? Some studies have.
But again, why is the left attacking pregnancy centers? They help to reduce the number of abortions. Isn’t the goal to make abortion rare?
The ultimate answer comes from the Washington state bill, which would regulate non-profit crisis pregnancy centers under the unfair competition section of the Consumer Protection Act. While it’s absurd and unconstitutional to regulate the speech of non-profit groups under a law meant for businesses, the most salient reminder from this portion of the legislation is that abortion is a business.
Abortion providers want less abortion like Philip Morris wants less smoking. If a measure truly reduces the number of women who get abortions, it has an impact on their bottom line. Each regulation that reduces abortion reduces profit and reduces the incentive for abortionists to continue their work. That’s why every bill proposed to reduce abortions is met with fierce resistance, and every law an obligatory long court battle that allows clinics to continue to operate under business as usual.
While your average pro-choice American would like to see less abortions, pro-abortion groups will have none of it. Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, stated plainly: “It is not our goal to reduce the number of abortions.”
Abortion is a business, and business isn’t good. In the past fifteen years, the number of abortion clinics has declined from over 2,000 to 750, and 87% of all counties have no abortion providers at all. The average age of abortion providers is increasing, which adds up to a dramatic decline in the number of abortionists in coming years. Further, abortion clinics now find themselves solidly outnumbered by crisis pregnancy centers. And the biggest harm these crisis pregnancy centers do to the abortion industry comes from the use of ultrasound, not from “medically inaccurate information”
Far from wanting less abortions, abortion providers are trying to increase abortions in the face of an economic shortfall. Local Texas Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson quit after Planned Parenthood began to push for more abortions instead of prevention.
Abortion clinics need more clients, not fewer. However, to say it publicly is horrible public relations. Then again, so is going after a Heisman Trophy winner who wants to praise his mom’s courage during the Super Bowl. Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for Choice, and Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL, rightly suggested abortion advocates had made a strategic blunder and urged them to take their own PR offensive.
The duo suggested, “People want to be inspired, and abortion is as tough and courageous a decision as is the decision to continue a pregnancy.” This shows they don’t understand the political arguments that allow them to keep abortion legal are costing them the culture war.
The argument that every abortion is a tragedy that should be kept legal for women in desperate situations does not lead Americans to celebrate women who get abortions as heroes. Americans may sympathize with someone who got an abortion in a desperate situation, but they won’t celebrate her as a hero. Americans find contemptuous stories like that of Amy Richards, an abortion advocate who cited her desire not to shop at Costco for big jars of mayonnaise in explaining why she aborted two of three healthy triplets against the wishes of her partner.
Abortion rights advocates face a challenge. Can they make Americans believe Barbara Tebow’s decision to have her son was no more heroic than Amy Richards’ decision to dodge trips to Costco? They need to if they want the abortion business to pick up. But fifty-six percent of Americans still think abortion is morally wrong. While some Americans who believe this are amiable to the “pro-choice” argument, attempts to turn abortion into a virtuous action could blow up in the face of pro-choice activists.