Conservatives love to claim that abortion is at the root of every problem in the country. High divorce rates? Abortion! Decline of moral standards? Abortion! The success of Glee? Definitely abortion. But a detailed analysis of abortion rates across the U.S. blows that theory out of the (holy) water.
The Atlantic's Richard Florida, along with Charlotta Mellander and Zara Matheson from the Martin Prosperity Institute, mapped the geography of abortion and found that you get very different conclusions depending on whether you consider the states in which abortions actually occur or the percentage of abortions obtained by out of state residents; thirty-seven states are below the national average of 19.1 abortions per 1,000 women, but that may be because women have to travel to other states to get the services they need. The scariest map of all shows the percent of counties that don't have an abortion provider:
Nearly nine in 10 U.S. counties lack an abortion provider, and nearly all non-metropolitan counties (97 percent) and roughly seven in 10 metropolitan counties lack a provider as well. In 26 states, 90 percent of counties lack an abortion provider. A 2005 study found that nearly one-quarter of women seeking an abortion have to travel 50 miles or more to find a "capable" doctor.
But before anti-choicers get too excited about the dearth of options for women in need, they should check out the rest of the findings; Florida, Mellander, and Matheson also looked at the economic, cultural, and political factors at play. Some are probably obvious to everyone — the geography of abortion is positively associated with the share of state voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and negatively associated with McCain votes, huge surprise — but abortion rates are negatively associated with divorce rates and even more so with the rate of serial marriages (people who have been married more than three times). "In other words, the higher a state's abortion rate, the stronger its marriages appear to be," they concluded.
And abortions are also positively associated with college graduates and affluent economies:
While the issue of abortion is typically posed in political or moral terms, its geography reflects the stark reality of class in America. Abortion and reproductive health services are more readily available in more affluent, more educated, more knowledge-based states, while women in poorer states with more traditional blue-collar economies face fewer, if any, choices for reproductive health services and must contend with far greater restrictions on their reproductive rights.
So what's that about the social evil that is abortion, again?
The Geography of Abortion [The Atlantic]
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