January 30, 2013
Why The Rise and Fall in Teen Pregnancy?
Two news stories - one about Canada's rising
teen pregnancy rate and one about the falling
US teen pregnancy rate, both blaming the same rotten economy, with Canadian observers stating that the dismal economic prospects lead girls to become mothers and US observers opining that lack of economic prospects deters early childbearing. While Canada overall has about half the teen pregnancy rate as the US, the state of Maine and the adjoining Province of New Brunswick have a virtually identical rate.
January 22, 2013
Roe at 40 –Celebration or Midlife Crisis?
Anniversary – a cause for celebration. A
birthday – a midlife crisis. Roe v. Wade
, turning 40 next week, is cause for both.
First, the midlife crisis. The Planned Parenthood Federation
of America unveiled a new campaign this week that attempts to move the argument
over abortion away from the labels, “pro-choice” and “pro-life”, or
“anti-choice” and “pro-abortion”, into more nuanced, and real life territory.
The campaign, entitled, “Not in her Shoes”, begins:
“Most things in life aren’t simple. And that includes
It’s personal. It
can be complicated. And for many people, it’s not a black and white
So why do people
try to label it like it is? Pro-choice? Pro-life? The truth is these labels
limit the conversation and simply don’t reflect how people actually feel about
A majority of
Americans believe abortion should remain safe and legal. Many just don’t use
the words pro-choice. They don’t necessarily identify as pro-life either. Truth
is, they just don’t want to be labeled.
What they want is
for a woman to have access to safe and legal abortion, if and when she needs
In my book, Beyond
, published in 2004, I argued that supporters of reproductive freedom
needed to move beyond the labels and into a discussion of the reproductive
goals of woman and men. We need to recognize that the default position of
couples is to have children – that, in fact, all of us reading this article had
ancestors who did just that and did it successfully. BUT—and this is the key point—our ancestors
didn’t have children haphazardly. They pursued, consciously or not, strategies
to enable themselves and their offspring to be born healthy and survive to
adulthood so these children could then repeat the process. Women, especially,
since they bear the medical risks of childbearing, have had to plan, space and
limit the number of children they bear so that they and their offspring get the
nutrients and support to survive and thrive and in turn reproduce.
One hundred years ago, because of lack of access to family
planning and safe abortion, women and babies in this country had mortality
rates similar to a developing country in Africa today.
In 1913, there were 2.8 million births, with 250,000 babies
dying before their first birthday, and about 23,000 mothers died during childbirth—figures
that are comparable to many African nations today—and untold others died or
were grievously injured as the result of clandestine abortions. One source
estimated the number of deaths from botched abortions to be only slightly lower
than the number of mothers dying in childbirth, or about 15,000 women annually.
What changed this dismal picture, in addition to economic
development, increased education and antibiotics, was the legalization of birth
control and abortion.
The Roe v. Wade
decision de-criminalizing most abortions, handed down 40 years ago, is a symbol
of what kind of a country we want to be. There are only two choices: a country
where abortions are legal and safe, as is the case in most of Europe and North
America, or a country where they are illegal and unsafe, as most countries in
Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. The number of abortions will remain
essentially unchanged, though there is data that suggests that the number of abortions
in countries where they are
prohibited, because family planning services in these countries are also
The American people understand this, as conflicted as they
are about the procedure and its consequences. And this is where we have cause
for celebration: In the exit polls following the 2012 election, 59% if
Americans said abortion should be legal and 36% illegal, an almost two to one
majority. Within these two broad categories are as many different gradations of
opinion and personal circumstance as people responding to the question. It is
these personal stories that must become part of the national dialogue on
Similarly, to move the dialogue forward, it is crucial to
engage young people. Today’s younger
generation is remarkably uninformed about Roe,
with a recent Pew Survey finding that only 44% of young people knew that the Roe
decision was about abortion. Still,
the survey found that people under 30 supported legal abortion at the same
rates as those in their 30’s and 40’s. Reframing the discussion away from
labels and recognizing the complexity and uncertainties of young people’s lives
can only lead to the recognition that legal abortion is a public, and personal,
health and reproductive necessity.
Hence the message of “Not in her Shoes”. Each woman has to
make the decision to bear a child and not be forced into involuntary
motherhood. It is time to go beyond the labels of pro-choice and pro-life and time
to respect the individual human dynamics of childbearing and realize that reproductive
freedom benefits all of humanity. If crisis equals opportunity, this is an
opportunity to have real discussions about Roe
The forgoing appeared in the North Jersey Record on January 20, 2013