Frances Kissling, co-founder of the Global Fund for Women, and current president of Catholics for a Free Choice, published this article in the current issue of Conscience.
If abortion is a morally neutral act and does not endanger women's health, why bother to prevent the need for it? After all, the cost of a first-trimesterbabortion is comparable to the cost of a year's supply of birth control pills-and abortion has fewer complications and less medical risk for women than some of the most effective methods of contraception. This question has plagued advocates of choice since abortion was legalized. It has intensified in the face of antiabortion moralism about sex and responsibility, in the continued stigmatization of women who have abortions and in the increasingly expressed mantra that "there are simply too many abortions in the U.S." Frustration has led some advocates of legal abortion to dig in their heels and insist that any talk about preventing abortions denigrates women as moral decision-makers, misunderstands the reasons women have abortions, retreats from principled support for the right of women to choose abortion without government interference and tacitly lends credence to the contention that abortion is almost always morally wrong. At the evidence level, some worry that the emphasis on prevention as a solution violates a core belief that good facts make good ethics. Demographers and social scientists are more than skeptical of claims by the group Democrats for Life (DFL) that we can reduce abortions by 95 percent in 10 years if we modestly increase economic support for women who face unintended pregnancies. The critics note that the level of increased support suggested by this interest group compares unfavorably with the level of support currently afforded to women in European countries-and the rate of abortions in those countries, while lower than that in the US, comes nowhere near the 95/10 goal DFL espouses.