Most people don’t have the time to search for statistics on every issue that hits the news to figure out what is a real grown-up fact and what is an ”alternative fact.” Today, many people who think women should not have access to abortion will be protesting for what they claim to be a “pro-life” stance in Washington D.C., and several people from Trump’s administration, including his VP, will give remarks at this rally. To save you time, I went ahead and put together a list of some real facts about this topic.
Making abortion illegal will not decrease abortion rates. A study by Guttmacher Institute and World Health Organization showed that there is little or no difference in abortion rates between countries where it is legal vs. illegal / heavily restricted – suggesting that outlawing abortion is not an efficient way to bring down the need for abortion. In fact, in countries where abortion is illegal or very restricted the abortion rate is 37 per 1,000 women, compared to 34 per 1,000 women in countries where abortion is more freely available.
Restricting access to safe and legal abortion kills women. Worldwide, 47,000 women die every year from complications related to unsafe abortion. That’s almost 130 women every day. Almost all of these deaths occur in the developing countries, which will also be impacted the most by the reinstated Global Gag Rule.
Cutting funding to sexual and reproductive services is counter-productive. Policies like the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, don’t just restrict women’s access to abortion. It will also prevent women from accessing basic sexual and reproductive health services, like gynecological exams, sexual education and contraceptives – services that could actually help them avoid unwanted pregnancies and therefore minimize the need for abortion. Based on all available research and information, legislation and policies that restrict women’s access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health services will only increase women’s need for abortion, because their ability to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is severely weakened.
Legalizing abortion did not make abortion rates soar. Abortion rates in the U.S. are right now at all-time low since Roe v. Wade.
Abortion providers do much more than just terminating pregnancies. Abortion is only a small fraction of the range of health services Planned Parenthood provides, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, pap smears, sexual education, providing contraceptives, testing for and treating STDs, vasectomies, and so forth.
The combination of repealing the ACA while restricting women’s access to safe abortion will have a devastating impact on maternal, newborn and child health, especially in low income families ― and the situation is already bad. Infant mortality rates in the U.S. are nearly double those in Scandinavia, higher than in any other wealthy country, and The United States is one of very few countries in the world and only western country where the maternal mortality ratio is increasing, not decreasing.
The most important fact about access to abortion is that women’s bodies are our own, as are our reproductive choices, and no government should ever be allowed to take the power to decide out of our hands. Our reproductive decisions should not be a political battle ground, or as in the case of the current President, a way to score some points with constituents who are otherwise starting to doubt whether voting for him was the right choice after all.
There are things that can be done to actually decrease women’s need for abortions. Things that have been proven to be efficient – for example:
Ensuring all women, despite their income level, have access to reliable and high quality sexual and reproductive health services so that they are actually equipped with the information and tools they need to do their best to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Improving maternity and paternity leave and strengthening work place policies that make it easier for women to start families without risking their jobs, careers and income in the process.
Making contraceptives more affordable, and underlining the fact that avoiding unwanted pregnancies should not be just the responsibility of women
Bringing high quality sexual education to all schools so that young people learn early own how the reproductive system works, and where and how they can get information about contraceptive options and learn what works best for them.
Trump didn’t just reinstate the Global Gag Rule ― he also expanded it. Measures that are designed to restrict women’s access to safe and legal abortion will not bring down the need for abortion or abortion rates ― but what they will do is place millions of women at grave risk, and cost countless of women their lives. That is not being “pro-life” ― quite the opposite. This administration’s “pro-life” measures will cost more lives than they will ever save.
Opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the opinions and positions of my employers.