Beverly Hoback: Abortion debate is back; let’s take a new path

By Beverly Hoback / Herald Forum

The abortion debate in the United States, raging since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, has reignited with a passion after the recent leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion and Friday’s ruling confirming that leak.

Again we hear the familiar slogans from both sides, meant to influence policy but clearly having little effect on the stance of the opposing side. “Bans off my body,” “protect human life,” “pro-choice,” “pro-life,” “a woman’s right to choose,” “choose life”; how long are we going to repeat these same phrases when they clearly have no effect on the position of others? This is like a bad skip in a record, repeating without change or conclusion. Isn’t it time we look for an argument that is actually effective?

What the pro-choice movement needs to grasp is that at the heart of the pro-life movement is the belief that a unique, eternal human soul is imbued in the human zygote at the moment of conception. This is not, in itself, an evil belief. The majority of people on our planet believe in some sort of God and in a human soul that lives beyond death. I have heard many pro-choice people angrily assert that the pro-life movement is all about men wanting to control women’s bodies, but this ignores the millions of women who are anti-abortion.

To many in the pro-life camp, stating the obvious — that many women die from illegal abortions — does not sway them because they believe those women die while trying to murder a human being. Thus they are not moved by the woman’s death. Even saying that you are “pro-choice, not pro-abortion” is an ineffective argument, because the pro-life person is not going to feel that murder should be a choice. And how about, “If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one”? Does anyone say, “If you don’t believe in rape, don’t rape anyone”?

What, then, can pro-choice people say that might actually influence the opinion of a self-proclaimed pro-life person? How about stating some facts. We can start with this: Medical science has known since the 1950s that fully half of all fertilized eggs never implant in the womb, a fact that has been confirmed in research since that time. If use of an IUD or a morning after pill is murder because those prevent implantation of the fertilized egg, then God ended that life, because he designed the conceptual process in which half of all zygotes will never develop to the point of consciousness.

Furthermore, according to the Mayo Clinic, up to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. In fact, if the woman is age 35, her risk of miscarriage is 20 percent. At age 40 it is 40 percent, and at age 45 it is 80 percent. Yet God allows women in this age group to become pregnant. Furthermore, 1 in 160 births in the United States results in a stillbirth. These statistics tell us that whatever you want to call the force that brings life to humans, doesn’t particularly care about fate of a fertilized egg. Yet some seek to imprison those who perform abortions or have abortions, regardless of the reasons behind this decision.

And have no doubt: Every pregnancy carries risks to the mother’s life, risks greater than those involved when a legal abortion is performed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020 the maternal mortality rate in the U.S was 23.8 per 100,000 live births, while the death rate from legal abortion is 0.7 per 100,000 abortions. Hence the mother’s life is always at greater risk from pregnancy than from legal abortion.

Since God/nature provides no assurance of protection for the fertilized egg, and not much for the embryo in early development, and since every pregnancy constitutes a danger to the mother’s life, shouldn’t women be able to choose whether to continue a pregnancy or not? I believe logic can lead to no other conclusion.

Furthermore, research shows that making abortion illegal does not result in a reduction in the number of abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, during the period from 2010-14, abortions happened roughly as frequently in countries with the most restrictive abortion laws as in those with the least restrictive abortion laws: 37 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 and 34 per 1,000 women aged 15-44, respectively. Abortion rates have only been shown to decline when contraceptive use increases, especially when long-acting contraception is used. So the only way to be truly anti-abortion is to increase availability of contraception. To criminalize abortion rather than providing birth control will not save anyone. A woman dying during an illegal abortion is not going to give birth to a baby.

It’s time to ditch the slogans if we want to influence the beliefs of others and the policies our courts and lawmakers enact. Let’s find the facts, let’s disseminate the facts, and let’s recognize that both sides believe they are protecting the sanctity of human life. Lives depend on us approaching this issue with all the logic we can muster.

Beverly Hoback lives in Arlington.

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