New research shows that the abortion rate in America is at its lowest level since the 1970's, and we have widely available, reliable birth control to thank. This data, in the face of other numbers that suggest the American birth rate is also at historic lows, suggests that women are simply exerting greater control over their own pregnancies. So hug your pills extra tight today. Look them in their pill-eyes. Tell them you love them.
The research, from Guttmacher, shows that in 2011, there were only 17 abortions for every 1,000 women. That's down from 29.3 back when abortion rates were the highest, in the wee years of the 80's, and continues a trend of long, steady decline, a trend that the walking Lawrence Welk haircuts who run state legislatures will undoubtedly rush to attribute to their hard work and hundreds of attempts to restrict abortions for women who need them. But the tie between recent abortion restrictions and the procedure's diminished ubiquity simply doesn't exist.
We know this because Guttmacher's data predates the wave of enacted anti-abortion laws that came into effect in recent years. We also know that the focus of many abortion restrictions — late-term procedures — only comprise a tiny percentage of overall abortions. And so we can conclude that either right wing politicians are actual idiots incapable of interpreting data, or, more cynically, that much of the anti-choice push has been political posturing from a shameless contingent of dudes who just want to get their Bible-thumping wingnut base good and frothy. Anti-choice politicians are not helping; they're offering a solution to a nonexistent problem at great expense to the taxpayers who fund the myriad of state legal battles that ensue in the wake of abortion restrictions.
In fact, the data even further emphasizes the silliness of the anti-birth control stance some right wing voices have adopted. Recent example: during an appearance on CNN's Hardball last month, after arguing that all abortion is an "act of violence" against the fetus of a rapist, famously nutty anti-abortion activist Lila Rose offered the Tweet-friendly defense "FERTILITY IS NOT A DISEASE" to support her accompanying view that birth control is also Very Bad. Abortion, in Rose's mind, is literally murder. So why would she offer blanket opposition to birth control, something that, in her mind, literally prevents murder? (Besides, the argument that pregnancy is not a disease and therefore shouldn't require medical intervention to prevent is ridiculous; for a non-disease, pregnancy sure does require a lot of medical attention.)
Just as it's more effective to prevent robbery by locking the door to your house than it is to install a series of Home Alone style booby traps in your foyer, so too is more effective to reduce abortions by minimizing the occurrence of unwanted pregnancy. So, one more time, with feeling: the best course of action for those who find abortion immoral isn't to add restrictions to the procedure, but to actively work to remove barriers to access to long term birth control for people who need it. It's not rocket science.
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