Democratic politicans in rural areas have faced a dilemma since 1973 when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in all states: to be pro-choice, like their national partners, or pro-life, like the majority of their constituents.
Republicans do not face this dilemma because their national counterparts and local rural voters share staunch pro-life stances. Republican policy, however, does not uphold pro-life values.
Current Republican proposals would jeopardize access to contraceptives for millions of women who now have access under the Affordable Care Act which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is planning to repeal and replace with a “MitchCare” bill that was drafted in secret. This plan will drastically cut Medicaid services which also help women afford birth control.
Contraceptives help prevent unplanned pregnancies. A Washington University study in St. Louis showed that when birth control was offered to women at no cost, the abortion rate fell to half the previous rate. I doubt there is any anti-abortion activist who supports a policy that raises abortion rates. Yet, Republicans oppose a policy that significantly reduces the abortion rate — and still receive money and votes from anti-abortion advocates.
Republicans also favor taking away services and clinics that provide abortions, apparently believing that if there is nowhere to get an abortion then no abortions will happen. That is hyper-idealistic and does not reflect reality.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in countries where there are legal abortion providers the abortion rate is 34 for every 1,000 women aged 15-44, while the abortion rate for countries that outlaw abortion is 37 for every 1,000 women in that age range. Criminalizing abortion providers not only does not lower the rate of abortions, it endangers women by forcing them to resort to underground providers while making one of the hardest decisions of their lives.
The activists who try to shut down abortion providers are not lowering the abortion rate; they are endangering lives and hurting women who use abortion providers for other medical care such as cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
Abortion rates are on the decline around the world, but Republicans are pursuing policies that will stall the decline or increase abortions.
Abortion rates have declined under the last five presidents, but the declines have been largest, by far, under the two Democrats. The difference in the ratio of abortions per 1,000 live births from the start of the president’s term to the end of the president’s term since Reagan goes as follows:
Ronald Reagan: -23.3 over eight years (-2.9 per year); George H.W. Bush: -13.4 over four years (-3.4 per year); Bill Clinton: -50.2 over eight years (-6.3 per year); George W. Bush: -35.3 over eight years (-4.4 per year); Barack Obama: -48.8 over eight years (-6.1 per year).
Pulling funding for abortion clinics leads to uneducated mothers who don’t know the full extent of their options and resort to risky abortions by unqualified providers. Restricting birth control pills and other forms of contraception is one of the few ways to raise the abortion rate.
Republicans have been bombastic in their rhetoric, yet Democrats demonstratively have outperformed them in protecting the lives of the unborn.
Before going to the voting booth, vet both candidates’ policies on abortion and birth control before automatically hitting that R button; it might serve your values better to vote Democrat.
Cameron Lopez is an economics student at the University of Kentucky.