You’re never going to believe this. Contrary to what anti-abortion zealots will tell you, when abortion is legal and the government covers the costs, abortion rates go down.
A new study published in The Lancet offers more evidence to that point by looking specifically at U.S. foreign policy regarding the issue.
Beginning with President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, the U.S. instituted a policy (called the Mexico City Policy, since that’s where he first announced it in 1984) that banned any foreign assistance to groups that performed or offered counseling on abortion.
President Bill Clinton (a Democrat) eventually rescinded that rule. President George W. Bush (a Republican) reinstated it. President Barack Obama rescinded it again. (Donald Trump has, of course, reinstated the “gag rule.”)
By looking at what happened to abortion rates during their times in office, we get a fairly clear picture of what impact the policy had. The researchers focused on 26 sub-Saharan African countries affected by the rules, broken down by how much each country relied on the funding. (You would expect the ones that needed the U.S. cash the most were also the ones most affected by the anti-abortion policy while the other countries could have covered those costs in other ways.)
In addition to finding that the ban produced a 40% increase in a country’s typical abortion rate during the period when the Mexico City policy was in place, the authors found a 14% decrease in the use of contraception and a 12% increase in pregnancies.
That link is important. If you shut down (or severely limit) the work of abortion providers, you’re affecting some of the very groups that offer birth control. When they don’t get U.S. funding to operate, they cut back on their work, and fewer people obtain contraception. Less contraception means more people getting pregnant against their wishes.
The authors conclude:
We have shown how a US policy that aims to restrict federal funding for abortion services can lead, unintentionally, to more — and potentially riskier — abortions in poor countries. Regardless of one’s political preferences or beliefs about the ethics of abortion, these results represent undesirable and unintended — but reversible — consequences of the Mexico City Policy.
It’s hard not to extrapolate within the U.S., too. When there’s an effective abortion ban in the country, or at least many states, you’re going to see a rise in abortions. That includes a rise in riskier abortions. More unwanted pregnancies will occur. More women will die. And all of it is the result of “pro-life” advocates who refuse to acknowledge reality because they’re clouded by visions of fetuses smiling back at them.
If they really wanted to reduce the number of abortions, they would be urging our government to make sure foreign countries receiving assistance from us offer the full spectrum of reproductive choices.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Scott for the link)