What the evidence says about preventing unborn deaths
Abortion has been in the news a lot recently. Whether it’s Donald Trump reinstating the global gag rule, new laws in the US defunding women’s health services, or the resurgence here in Australia of support to fully decriminalize abortion, abortion has been talked about a lot recently across the world.
This argument is usually a screaming match between one side who thinks that women should have the right to do what they want with their bodies and another who think that a small cluster of cells should have the same rights as a human being.
These debates are stupid.
It’s pretty obvious why a pro-lifer would be against abortion; they’d see it as murder. I disagree (equating a bundle of cells to a baby is flaming hot insanity), but honestly the diffuse moralistic question of whether there is a black-and-white point at which a sperm and egg become a person is bucket of boring philosophizing and not really useful to anyone’s life.
This is public health. We don’t care about what feels good. We care about what works.
The pro-life argument is that unborn lives are the most important part of the equation. Here are 5 evidence-based strategies that would actually make sure that fewer unborn lives were lost;
1. Contraception: it’s important to remember that banning abortion doesn’t work. Abortion bans don’t decrease the number of unborn lives lost, they merely make it less safe for women who need to access the procedure. But something that is absolutely proven to reduce the number of abortions is effective, cheap contraception. The first element of any truly pro-life argument should be making contraception more accessible, particularly for underprivileged women who are more likely to have difficulties accessing health services.
2. Preventing Smoking In Pregnancy: It may come as a shock if you have been isolated from the world since 1940, but smoking kills. What’s less commonly known is that smoking is one of the leading causes of death for unborn babies. Smoking is associated with a 20% increased risk of unborn death, as well as a huge array of negative consequences for the baby. The second part of a truly pro-life strategy would be to dramatically increase the funding for smoking prevention programs in pregnant women.
3. Preventing Drinking In Pregnancy: another cause of unborn death is alcohol. Depending on the level of drinking during pregnancy, alcohol can increase the risk of unborn death by up to seven times, but even at low levels of drinking there is evidence of serious harm to the baby. A truly pro-life approach would mean putting in place programs to help pregnant women drink less, as well as a population-based approach to make drinking less common generally.
4. Reduce Rates Of Obesity: it turns out that another huge risk factor for unborn babies is the weight of the mother. If we want to reduce the number of babies who die before being born one of the most important things we can do is address the social and economic causes of obesity as well as fund programs to help expectant mums lose weight.
5. Adequate Women’s Health: another way that we could save countless unborn lives is by making sure that health care for women is adequately funded. This includes sexual health services, pregnancy clinics, post-birth care and a whole bunch more. It’s amazing that so many so called “pro-life” arguments don’t mention making sure that all women can access medical services during their pregnancy. Being truly pro-life would mean increasing funding for free pregnancy care to all women.
A Truly Pro-Life Agenda
You’ll notice one very important point; none of these have anything to do with abortion. That’s because calling an anti-abortion stance pro-life is like saying that you’re anti-death because you oppose murder. People don’t just die from murder, and unborn babies die from a lot of things that aren’t abortion. We know that legislating against abortion doesn’t save lives because it doesn’t stop women from having abortions.
It just stops women from accessing safe abortions. And unsafe abortions kill.
Not very pro-life after all.
It’s not that hard to be truly pro-life. Cheap, easily accessible women’s health services do a huge amount to reduce the number of babies (and mothers) who die during pregnancy. In fact, Planned Parenthood in the US provides many of the services that are key to preventing unborn babies from dying.
Guess who most “pro-life” activists are vehemently against?
A truly pro-life agenda would be to address all the causes of unborn death, not just the one that you are ideologically opposed to. It would encompass increased funding for women’s health, better social programs aimed at preventing smoking, drinking and obesity, and a universal contraception program that was accessible for all women. You’d see fewer babies dying in the womb, but also fewer newborn, child and maternal deaths.
Or we could keep arguing about what women are allowed to do with their wombs.
An easy choice, methinks.