When We Make Abortion Illegal

The Pro-Life movement always wins when people pay attention to abortion. Only a few radicals really

"I survived Roe v. Wade. Roe. v. Wade will not survive me." Photo credit: Elizabeth Alison Photograph
“I survived Roe v. Wade. Roe. v. Wade will not survive me.” Photo credit: Elizabeth Alison Photograph

support abortion if they know–really know–what they’re supporting. So the last-ditch tactic of the pro-abortion movement is to convince people to turn their eyes away. It’s not that difficult, normally–we’d all much rather accept that Planned Parenthood provides just vague “care,” rather than tearing apart human fetuses, their real raison d’être.

But when America sees abortion for what it really is, they will no longer support it. It’s as simple as that. I believe it will happen, and it might be sooner than we think.

But if Planned Parenthood is really losing the battle, if abortion really becomes illegal, we in the Church will need to be ready. We need to know what the consequences of this will be, both bad and good. We need to be prepared to help women who are pregnant, scared, poor, alone.

So let’s make some plans. I’ve done a little research. Let’s talk about what will happen and what won’t happen when abortion becomes illegal, and what practical things we need to do to bring that day closer.

What Won’t Happen

First, let’s talk about what won’t happen. If you google “making abortion illegal,” you’ll see a lot of sketchy data and scare tactics from pro-abortion researchers. For example, you might read that it’s actually useless to make abortion illegal, because abortion rates are higher in countries where abortion is illegal than they are here.

That is true in some relatively poor countries (e.g. Brazil) where women have limited access to contraception. That means a pregnancy in those countries is both more likely and more perilous, and women are more easily led to seek abortions. That won’t happen here. A more apt comparison would be to the Republic of Ireland, a rich Western democracy like the United States, with the difference that abortion is illegal. Sadly, Irish women can still access abortion in neighboring countries like the UK and the Netherlands. In 2010, the abortion rate in those countries for women who gave an Irish address was 4.4 per 1,000 women aged 15-44. That’s a full 2/3 lower than the abortion rate in the United States, which in 2011 was 13.9 per 1,000 women aged 15-44.

When abortion becomes illegal in the US, a cottage industry of traveling to Canada, Mexico, or Cuba to obtain abortions will develop. Drug cartels in Mexico could use existing clandestine channels to smuggle abortifacients into the country and sell them on the black market. It’s important to realize that the abortion rate would decrease dramatically if it were made illegal, but it would not hit zero. Abortion has been a shameful part of human civilization since the beginning, and it will not go away entirely.

Another common threat is that if abortion is made illegal, women will die from so-called “back-alley abortions.” It’s true that in 1957, before legalization, 257 American women died from botched abortions, while only 10 women died in 2010. The threat is that maternal deaths will spike due to women seeking unsafe abortions, but the simple (if grotesque) fact is that in the last 50 years abortion methods and abortifacients have become so safe (for women) and effective, that maternal death is not significantly higher due to illegal abortions in 1st world countries. When Chile made abortion illegal, for example, a variety of factors actually caused a decrease in maternal mortality. Making abortion illegal is not a threat to women’s health.

So, to summarize, this is what won’t happen if abortion is made illegal:

1. Abortion rates won’t rise.
2. Abortion will not become nonexistent.
3. Maternal deaths will not spike.

What Must Happen

The wave of public revulsion against Planned Parenthood will not last forever, as we humans naturally turn away from things we don’t like to see. I thank God that these videos are being released, but watching them is painful and unpleasant–I’m honestly surprised so many people have. Soon, barring a miracle, the national conversation will turn away from abortion until the next time we’re able to again expose what goes on behind closed doors in a way that people can’t ignore.

In the absence of public attention, we need to fight hard to decrease the abortion rate and stigmatize untrustworthy abortion providers as we fight to make abortion illegal. In fact, we will never make abortion illegal until we lower the abortion rate. 3 in 10 American women will have had abortions by age 45. A sizable number of those women will regret their decision, but the ones who don’t form the core of the abortion caucus. Any justification for abortion is acceptable, no Pro-Life argument can have any validity–any possibility can be considered except that a woman was wrong to get an abortion and that her abortion took a human life.

Our goal must be to lower that 3 in 10 number. Not only will we save children, but we will decrease the amount of women (and men) whose self-assessment of themselves as good persons depends on justifiable abortion.

To lower the abortion rate, the Pro-Life movement must have these two goals (among others):

1. Lower the rate of unintended pregnancies.
2. Present viable options to women who have become pregnant unintentionally (e.g., Adoption).

This will directly benefit the Pro-Life project of lowering the abortion rate and convincing people that abortion is an unnecessary and radical choice.

So, how do we do this?

In Colorado, the pregnancy rate among teenagers fell by 40% between 2009 and 2013, and the teen abortion rate fell by 42% in the same period. The decline was most pronounced in the state’s poorest areas. How did this happen? Colorado provided free long-lasting and ultra-effective birth control to anyone who wanted it.

This is a practical solution that won’t sit too well with some Pro-Lifers. Whether Christians should use implanted birth control is a valid and necessary discussion, but I think the salient fact here is the hundreds of lives saved. There are a lot of things that I wouldn’t advocate normally, but I would if it were a question of preventing a murder. In this case, it is a question of preventing hundreds of thousands of murders.

The result of this and similar measures is fewer babies killed. Fewer women traumatized by abortion. Fewer people who think their sexual freedom depends on the availability of abortion (and thus fewer willing to fight hard for the pro-abortion cause). Pro-Lifers should work for this.

For women who are pregnant and don’t want to be, Pro-Lifers have an ace up our sleeves: crisis pregnancy centers. In 2013, there were 2,500 of these centers across the country, numbering some 700 more than abortion clinics. One of the largest networks, Care Net, reports that it has saved almost 390,000 lives in the past six years alone.

By targeting women at risk for abortion, crisis pregnancy centers like this one give the lie to the pro-abortion mantra that pro-lifers don’t care about women or children, just unborn fetuses. These centers help young women understand how they can handle motherhood, or if they can’t, they refer them to adoption and foster care agencies. These simple tactics have proven to be jaw-droppingly effective: 8 out of 10 women who consider an abortion choose life after visiting a crisis pregnancy center.

When abortion is illegal, crisis pregnancy centers will entirely replace abortion clinics as the places where women go when they need help due to an unplanned pregnancy. Thus, working to strengthen these institutions is one of the most important things we can do to bring about a future in which no children have to die for their parents’ sexual freedom.

It’s important to remember that women who get abortions are not, for the most part, destitute teenagers pressured by their boyfriends or scared of what their parents will think. Most of them are in their 20s and 30s, they’re college students and young members of the workforce. They can afford to raise a child, but they will have to sacrifice to do so. The abortion rate is high because women are not ready to do this, but crisis pregnancy centers help them. The work doesn’t stop when the baby is born–churches have a long way to go in our outreach and care for unwed mothers and their children–but let’s start with the fact that by investing in and volunteering for crisis pregnancy centers, Pro-Lifers can literally save lives.

So, to meet our two goals, here are two practical solutions:

1. Advocate for cheap, effective birth control methods to lower the rate of unintended pregnancy.
2. Fund and advocate for crisis pregnancy centers to provide women practicable alternatives to abortion.

Pro-Lifers don’t often think about what would happen if we actually succeed. It’s time to start, because we’re going to succeed. We need to start working, right now, for the post-abortion future.