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Abortion Has Done Nothing to Advance Women's Freedom

January 24, 1973 was the 44th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. In a Jan. 24, 1973 editorial, The New York Times proclaimed:

The Supreme Court has made a major contribution to the preservation of individual liberties and of free decision-making by its invalidation of state laws inhibiting a woman’s right to obtain an abortion in its first three months of pregnancy.

It has left the decision where it belongs—to the woman and her physician—with the power of the state to interfere, at later stages of pregnancy, governed essentially by considerations of maternal health. The Court has performed a useful historical function by recalling that the spur for the initial adoption of state laws banning abortion nearly a century ago was the great risk of maternal death involved in the surgical procedures then used. Now the risk arises out of perpetuating such archaic statutory prohibitions. The effect of these laws has been to force women, especially the young and the poor, to resort to abortion mills instead of expert hospital care when they are determined not to have an unwanted child.

Forty-three years later, we know that the image that the Times conjured up -- of women making autonomous and fully-informed decisions in consultation with knowledgeable and conscientious doctors and receiving "expert hospital care" rather than ending up at seedy abortion mills -- has proven to be a mirage.

The truth is that maternal deaths from abortion had already been declining prior to Roe due to advances in medical care and that most illegal abortions were, in fact, performed by physicians. All legalization did was allow more girls and women to be exploited, abused, traumatized, maimed, injured and killed before, during and after abortion.

Women and girls still die from abortion — women like Tonya ReavesJennifer MorbelliChristin Gilbert and Karnamaya Mongar, to name just a few. In fact, research has found higher death rates among women who have abortions compared to women who carry their pregnancies to term.

Other research has linked abortion to increased rates of breast cancersubstance abusedepressionsuicidesubsequent preterm birthanxiety disorders and other problems.

The legalization of abortion has done nothing to advance women’s freedom. Given research and anecdotal evidence showing that most abortions are unwanted or coerced, one could argue that abortion makes women less free.

Before Roe and Doe, a woman or girl who was being pressured or coerced to abort could resist on the grounds that it was illegal, unsafe and immoral. Legalization has made it easier for those around her to insist that because abortion is legal, it must be “safe,” and because it is “socially approved,” it must be moral. It makes it easier for them to refuse to support her desire to continue the pregnancy and insist that she abort anyway.

In fact, an article published several years ago on a popular men’s web site offered advice to men about how to pressure their wives or girlfriends into unwanted abortions. The article was taken down after numerous complaints, but not before readers saw writer Isabella Snow’s advice that men weren’t obligated to support their child “beyond what your conscience and the law expects of you.”

Rather than asking men to step up to the plate, Snow suggested they threaten abandonment in order to secure an abortion, regardless of the woman’s wishes:

This was her decision, not yours, and the bulk of the responsibility is now hers. Take a moment to spell this out for her when she gives you her final decision; it just may sway her over to your side.

The legalization of abortion has not ended child abuse (child abuse rates have increased since 1973) or violence against women. At least two studies of maternal death rates found that homicide was the leading cause of death among pregnant women.

Tracking news stories reveals that in many cases, the perpetrator wanted to get rid of the pregnancy and attacked or killed the victim after she refused to abort. For teens and young girls, abortion is often used to cover and up and continue sexual abuse by getting rid of the evidence of the crime — the resulting pregnancy.

Supporting abortion is not about protecting women's freedom and opportunities.

Women and their unborn children, as well as their families and loved ones, deserve real support and resources, not the exploitation, abuse and risks of abortion.


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