Magazine article The Human Life Review

How Red States Reduce the Abortion Rate: A Response to Andrew Koppelman

Magazine article The Human Life Review

How Red States Reduce the Abortion Rate: A Response to Andrew Koppelman

Article excerpt

Andrew Koppelman 's claim mat red states and die religious right increase abortions doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

In recent years the pro-life position has made impressive gains in the court of public opinion. Because of this, a number of political liberals have come to the realization that support for legal abortion is a losing issue politically. As such, many have attempted a clever switch in strategy. Instead of trying to defend abortion rights, they have attempted to seize die moral high ground by claiming that 1) pro-life efforts have been ineffective and that 2) their preferred policy goals offer die best hope for reducing abortion rates. Indeed, over the past few years leftleaning groups have argued mat a range of policies will reduce die abortion rate. These include more spending on welfare programs, greater access to contraceptives, and universal healtii care - in short, everytiiing but providing greater legal protections for unborn children.

This argument occurs once again in a widely circulated essay entitled "How the Religious Right Promotes Abortion" by Northwestern University Law Professor Andrew Koppelman. Koppelman favorably cites Naomi Cahn and June Carbone's book Red Families vs. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture. According to Koppelman, the hostility in red states to bom contraception and comprehensive sex education leads to a greater incidence of abortion. Conversely, even tiiough blue states are more tolerant of premarital sex, their support for comprehensive sex education and contraception actually lowers abortion rates. Koppelman spends much of the rest of the essay criticizing the religious right for their opposition to botii sex education and government funding of contraception.

Unfortunately, Koppelman 's claims are based on rhetorical sleights of hand and a faulty analysis of data. What is unique about this essay is that all three of Koppelman's arguments are incorrect. First, there is little evidence that more federal funding for contraceptives will reduce abortion rates. Second, there is some evidence that abstinence-only sex education is effective at reducing sexual activity among minors. Finally, red states actually have lower abortion rates, in part because they have placed more legal restrictions on abortion.

Funding for Contraception

Throughout the essay Koppelman axiomatically states that more government funding for contraception will reduce me abortion rate. However, me only evidence he presents to support his claim is a faulty analysis of abortion trends. In his essay, Koppelman claims that Reagan-era cuts in contraceptive funding in the early 1980s resulted in increasing abortion rates during the rest of the decade. While it is true that abortion rates went up slightly during the 1980s, it should also be noted that abortion rates were rising much feister during the 1970s. In fact between 1974 and 1980, the number of abortions performed in the United States nearly doubled at a time when, according to Koppelman, the federal government was funding contraception at historically high levels.

Furthermore, existing research indicates that there is relatively little the government can do to increase contraceptive use among sexually active women. Nine years ago, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which was Planned Parenthood's research arm and which strongly supports more funding for contraception, surveyed 10,000 women who had abortions. Among those who were not using contraception at the time they conceived, a very small percent cited cost or lack of availability as their reason for not using contraception. Specifically, only 12 percent said that they lacked access to contraceptives due to financial or other reasons. ' Given all the existing programs, it is by no means clear that more federal spending on contraceptives could increase contraceptive use among this subset of women.

Abstinence Programs

In his essay, Koppelman is quick to attack abstinence education programs. …

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