Abortion debate should focus on lack of education, birth control


Catherine J. Grandorff

Of all places, South Dakota is perhaps the most acutely aware of the abortion debate: The perpetual dialogue between the pro-life and pro-choice movements. This conversation has once again found itself in the state Legislature. But why this issue? According to author Cristina Page, abortion is the easy divider – it draws a clear, decisive line.

However, abortion is not the disease upon society; rather, it is the symptom of a much larger societal problem that the pro-life movement refuses to recognize: Unplanned pregnancy. The link seems obvious. As Dr. Maria Bell soundly noted to a deaf South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion, in order to reduce the number of abortions, we need to reduce unintended pregnancies. Seems logical enough. So how do we reduce these unplanned pregnancies, some of which are bound to end in abortion?

Contraception should appear in the forefront of suggestions, especially as 85 percent of American adults have sex at least once a week, according to a study of 900 American couples (“The American Sex Survey: A Peek Beneath the Sheets,” ABC News/Primetime Live poll, Oct. 24, 2004).

As Page comments, this encompasses people from all walks of life “married or single … conservative or liberal, devout or atheist.”

Even so, amongst the thousands of pro-life organizations in the United States, there exists not one in favor of contraception. That movement is doing nothing to prevent unintended pregnancies, nothing to prevent abortions at the most basic of levels. Why? Shouldn’t those focused on eliminating abortions be the vanguard of contraceptive availability and education, in the interest of preventing the very need for abortion?

The facts suggest a resounding “no.” Abstinence-only education and the “conscience” clause, which allows pharmacists to not fill birth control or emergency contraception prescriptions, are testament to that.

The truth is that abortion is not the root of this argument. It is the attention-getter, the battle cry. The pro-life movement’s obsession with American sex lives perpetuates this debate. For them, sex is only for marriage and meant for only one purpose: Procreation. This, obviously, is out of sync with the majority of this country’s population.

Contraception is what allows the women of our country to enjoy sex for pleasure once a week and maintain their positions as doctors, CEOs, teachers and congressional representatives. Without contraception, married and single women alike would be doomed to perpetual pregnancy, bound to the home and barred from the workforce as a result. Thanks to the revolutionary Pill and further contraceptive developments, women can lead successful careers, engage in fulfilling relationships and not be overrun by too many children.

If South Dakotans are going to support a ban on abortion of any sort, then they need to accept certain stipulations. Whether religion based, pro-life organizations like it or not, Americans are not going to stop having sex, so preventative measures need to be taken in order to prevent unintended pregnancy, and thereby, abortion. Contraception and the education of it must be encouraged by our society. Otherwise, unplanned pregnancies and their predictable abortive outcomes will continue.