Here are 4 policies social conservatives would promote — not oppose — if they were serious about reducing the number of abortions
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, has signed into law the most draconian anti-abortion legislation in the United States. The Alabama Human Life Protection Act is almost a complete abortion ban in that state, calls for prison sentences of up to 99 years for doctors who perform abortions, and makes no exception even for rape or incest. Ivey has acknowledged that the law might be unenforceable because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, but that’s no coincidence: Alabama Republicans are hoping that the law will be challenged in the federal courts and force the U.S. Supreme Court to reevaluate and overturn Roe v. Wade.
But even if Republicans and the Christian Right are successful in their battle against Roe, there will still be abortions in red states—although they will be performed illegally in back alleys under dangerous conditions. Republicans will never be able to eliminate abortion in the U.S., but their policies could determine whether abortion is “safe, legal and rare” (to use President Bill Clinton’s words) or performed illegally. And the irony is that the type of liberal/progressive policies that the Christian Right is bitterly opposed to can result in very low abortion rates when successfully implemented.
Here are some of the policies that Republicans, social conservatives and the Christian Right would promote if they were serious about reducing the number of abortions in the United States.
1. Comprehensive sex education
Some of the world’s lower abortion rates can be found in socially liberal developed countries in parts of Europe: The Lancet, analyzing 1990s/2000s data, reported an average abortion rate of 12 per 1000 women in West European countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg compared to 19 per 1000 women in the United States. And it is no coincidence that the Netherlands and Switzerland tend to have more liberal sexual attitudes along with lower abortion rates: comprehensive sex education is the norm in those countries, and the type of failed abstinence-only sex education programs that Republicans promote in the U.S. Bible Belt is unheard of.
2. Easy access to affordable contraception
Comprehensive sex education helps prevent unplanned pregnancies, thus reducing the need for abortions—especially when it is combined with easy access to affordable contraception. But the Christian Right typically opposes birth control, and far-right fundamentalists not only want to end Roe v. Wade—they would also love to see the Supreme Court overturn Griswold v. Connecticut, which in 1965, struck down a Connecticut law that banned contraception for married couples. By opposing birth control on top of opposing sex education, social conservatives are promoting unwanted pregnancies and increasing—not decreasing—the need for abortions.
In 2012, a Brookings Institute report found that more than 90% of abortions occur because of unplanned pregnancies, and that 50% of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. This shows that if Republicans are serious about reducing the number of abortions, they should be encouraging use of contraception—not discouraging it.
3. Universal health care
All of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, from liberal/progressive hopefuls like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren to centrist Sen. Amy Klobuchar, favor universal health care. They have different ideas for achieving that goal: Sanders favors a Medicare-for-all program, while Klobuchar favors a major expansion of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, combined with a public health option that Americans could buy into. But most Republicans, on the other hand, not only oppose Medicare-for-all—they want to see Obamacare abolished. And by making it more difficult for American women to have access to health care, Republicans are promoting unwanted pregnancies and, by extension, abortion.
4. More support for children with disabilities
Social programs that help the parents of children with disabilities are common in the West European countries that Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez often praise, but Republicans and social conservatives oppose such programs. And if the ACA is struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court—which is what Republicans are hoping for with the Texas v. Azar lawsuit—and the ACA’s protection for coverage of preexisting conditions goes away, insurance companies will once again be free to deny coverage to children with disabilities.
If Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and other anti-choice extremists were serious about the welfare of children, they would do everything in their power to encourage a robust financial safety net for parents. The more women realize that there is a safety net in place for parents, the less likely they are to want to terminate a pregnancy.