As pro-life advocates, we are often asked why we expend so much effort on trying to prevent abortion, instead of focusing on trying to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
Pro-choice advocates and politicians in particular are often quick to suggest that we should forgo trying to enact policy to prevent abortions entirely and instead get to work handing out birth control on every street corner. Oddly enough, these demands of us usually come even as pro-choice insititutions and Democrat politicians block efforts to make things like over-the-counter birth control legal, but the complicated relationship pro-choice advocates seem to have with legislating and restricting birth control is perhaps a subject for another time.(1)
The truth is that, despite the charges often levied against us, pro-life advocates do work to prevent unwanted pregnancies in a myriad of ways. In fact, while it might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, policies that restrict and outlaw abortion are some of the most effective ways to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in and of themselves.
While even most pro-choice advocates are quick to argue that abortion is not a form of birth control, when abortion is easily accessible it is often seen as an acceptable backup. When abortion becomes harder to access, people tend to take much greater care to avoid getting pregnant, resulting in significant declines in unwanted pregnancy rates.
Take public funding of abortions for example. It may surprise some people, but a lot of abortions are actually publicly funded, and as it stands, states are already directly spending tens of millions of dollars on about 160,000 abortion procedures every single year. While many argue that a woman seeking an abortion will go to almost any lengths to obtain one, even just the absence of taxpayer funding has massive effects on the number of abortions performed.(2)
Extensive research has shown that not only do abortions decline significantly when medicaid funding restrictions are implemented, but unwanted pregnancies take a dive as well. The effects are so significant that despite massive decreases in the number of abortions performed, overall births tend to remain static or decrease due to declines in the overall number of pregnancies.(3)
It is rather interesting that even just an increase of a few hundred dollars in the cost of abortion leads so many women to take greater care in avoiding pregnancy. The effects of taxpayer funding bans and other abortion restrictions upon pregnancy rates are particularly powerful in the long term, for, as people become more certain about the state of abortion availability when limited, they tend to exercise greater caution and take a more active role in avoiding pregnancy in the first place.(4)
Similarly, research in Family Planning Perspectives and Contemporary Economic Policy have demonstrated that longer travel distances and reduced access to abortion clinics significantly reduce both abortion rates and pregnancy rates. Again, when abortion is not easily accessible, people often work harder to avoid unwanted pregnancies.(5)(6)
This trend is shown across the body of research on the subject for virtually every type of pro-life law, and the effects are often so significant that they completely nullify any increase in birth. Parental involvement laws, for example, are shown often to have such a significant effect on pregnancy avoidance that often birth rates remain static or decrease even as abortion rates plummet. Generally, it seems that these decreases in unintended pregnancies are driven by increased use of contraception, which is more carefully used when abortion is not an option.(7)(8)(9)
As one might assume, we generally see that the stricter the law is, the larger the decrease in abortions and pregnancies is. Evidence from Europe, for example, demonstrates that even modest restrictions on abortion reduce abortion rates by around 25%, and also reduce pregnancy rates by as much as 10%, resulting in little net effect on births, as there’s more pregnancies to start with. Extremely strict laws have an even larger effect on pregnancies, causing declines in pregnancy rates of 27% to 45%, but decreases in pregnancy rates when abortion is most heavily restricted are often eclipsed by even more significant decreases in the number of abortions.(10)
Republicans and pro-life advocates are more than happy to peruse policies that reduce unwanted pregnancies, but our focus is primarily on reducing abortions. We generally find that the efficacy most of the solutions proposed by the left and by pro-choice advocates to be ineffective at reducing both abortions and unintended pregnancies, which is why we generally don’t support them.(11)
Ultimately, however, restrictions on abortion have been shown to be of the most effective and solid ways to help reduce not only abortion, but help lower the number of unwanted pregnancies as well.(12)
If reducing unwanted pregnancies is the primary goal, then restricting abortion is one of the best ways of achieving this.
This article was shared in collaboration with our friends at The Lifeguard Initiative.
Protecting the Defenseless - The Lifeguard Initiative
While we also advocate for outlawing abortion, Pro-Life Utah takes a multi-faceted approach to ending abortion; we empower women to choose life by providing education, counseling, financial aid, and, soon, free ultrasounds, provided by our new ultrasound van. Learn more about the van, our available resources for women, and how you can become a donor to help even more women and save even more babies’ lives.