Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bishops on Reducing Abortions

According to some Catholic Bishops, abortion rates cannot be reduced unless Roe v. Wade is overturned.

You might think that makes sense, but it's false. Guttmacher's statistics indicate that there is no correlation (much less causal relationship) between the legality of abortion and the number of abortions that occur in a country:

while it may seem paradoxical, a country's abortion rate is not closely correlated with whether abortion is legal there. For example, abortion levels are quite high in Latin American countries, where abortion is highly restricted. (In fact, 20 million of the 46 million abortions performed annually worldwide occur in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws.) At the same time, abortion rates are quite low throughout Western Europe, where the procedure is legal and widely available. Also, Eastern and Western Europe have the world's highest and lowest abortion rates, respectively, yet abortion is generally legal throughout the Continent.

In fact, if you put a little thought into it, you realize that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to prevent what causes them - unwanted pregnancies. How do you prevent unwanted pregnancies? Birth control! And the data bears this out:

Abortion levels are high in countries where the desire for small families is strong but contraceptive use is low or ineffective. For example, in most of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, where desired family size has been small for many years, modern contraceptive methods were not generally available until recently. As a result, women relied on abortion—which was legal, safe and easily accessible—to regulate births. However, as contraceptives have become much easier to obtain in recent years, the situation has begun to change rapidly, and abortion rates in some of these countries fell by as much as 50% between 1990 and 1996.

Of course, the Bishops can't tell you that greater access to contraception will lower the abortion rate in the U.S. because they oppose contraception just as vehemently as they oppose abortion. When will these people let their conclusions be informed by the data? When will they assess the facts on the basis of evidence rather than their preconceived dogma?

Oh wait... they're bishops. Nevermind.

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