President Obama has reversed a Bush administration restriction on U.S. financial support for organizations, including the United Nations Population Fund, that include the provision of abortion among their offerings. That is not to say such organizations 'promote' abortion. For the most part, their mission is empowering women, providing contraception, preventing unintended pregnancy and HIV transmission. But support for all of this was curtailed if abortion was an option.
Predictably, right-to-life groups have impugned the decision, and the President, as being pro-abortion. I counter with my own view that this is utter nonsense, and say with regard to our new President: Bravo! You've been in office a couple of days already -- what took you so long?
This is not because I am 'pro' abortion, any more than, I suspect, our President is. But rather because I am pro-people, and against hypocrisy. My own views -- some of you may have read them here in an earlier blog -- are posted here.
The best way to avoid abortions is not banning them -- that has never worked very well, but has simply ensured that the procedures done are apt to be more dangerous. The best way to avoid them is to minimize the number of women who ever even need to consider one.
I agree with Steven Sinding, formerly director-general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, who was quoted in the New York Times as saying: "It is actually a great day for those who oppose abortion. This will help many of the most effective providers of family planning services to enable women to avoid unwanted pregnancies."
I would add that 'those who oppose abortion' actually include both the pro-choice and pro-life constituencies. It is, in fact, the pro-choice contingent that opposes it more constructively.
This could just be one guy's opinion, but for the fact that a consistent body of scientific study has shown that comprehensive sex education programs and the provision of contraceptives do, indeed, curtail unwanted pregnancy. In other words, we have data to show that the very programs that make safe abortion available reduce the numbers of women ever needing to avail themselves of this undesirable option.
Anyone willing to look past ideology to the dispassionate data of epidemiology should be willing to embrace President Obama's decision. You do not need to be 'pro' abortion (who is?) to embrace policies that, while allowing for such procedures, do everything possible to make them go away by making better options universally available.
To express one's opposition to abortion by fighting for policies that increase the number of women likely to want or need this extreme remedy is, in the objective glare of epidemiologic scrutiny, counter to the goals of pro-life and pro-choice groups alike. Policy predicated on ideology, oblivious to epidemiology, is ill-conceived. If conceived nonetheless, it should be aborted as soon as possible to curtail its harms. In this case, as soon as possible is, apparently, right now. It has been a long time in coming, and a great deal of avoidable suffering has been the consequence- - including some number of abortions that might never have been necessary.
Along with others, I write in part simply to express my relief, and my support of the President. But I aspire to the loftier goal of getting us to glimpse the possibilities of common ground if we scrutinize the actual effects of the causes we sometimes all-too-unquestioningly serve.
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