In a 2013 article by former pro-lifer turned feminist blogger Libby Anne, she discusses the story of her conversion to the pro-choice movement. In her piece she highlights a contention pro-lifers hear all too often: that they (pro-lifers) are not pro-life, but rather, their policies inadvertently lead to more deaths. On the contrary she notes that pro-choicers are steadfastly instituting reforms to lower the number of the procedures done. Heck, according to Ms. Anne, if we crunch the numbers we will discover that the real pro-lifers are in fact pro-choicers. She argues this by contending that the pro-life movement’s focus on banning abortion is mistaken because a ban will have no effect on the number of abortions performed, and that we must instead prioritize the preventative power of contraceptive use. For example, the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute estimates that current public expenditures on contraception in the United States prevent over 2.2 million unplanned pregnancies a year and, in turn, over 760,000 abortions.
Sounds pretty pro-life, right? I want to save lives, period; I'm open to hearing solutions from people who disagree with me on the ethical aspects of the debate. (Libby Anne used to support the right to life as an ethical matter, but now states that she believes unborn children are not real people until birth.) But does the "pro-choice is pro-life" argument really paint the whole picture?
While I am sure that both pro-lifers and pro-choicers view their positions as doing the greater good, I also know the greater good is ultimately a question of math, and that math can be double checked. In acknowledging the assumptions of the movements, and utilizing the statistical evidence we have on hand, such statements can be tested beyond mere conjecture. In developing this formula it is my aim to show the real flesh and blood consequences of this pertinent debate and show the errors of the pro-choice position, as well as the powerful pro-life potential of the anti-abortion movement. I call this endeavor the life equation.
Here, as I see it, are the equations each side is using:
Pro-Choice Life Equation
Total deaths = current # of abortions minus # of abortions prevented by contraception minus # of women saved from dying in illegal abortions
Pro-Life Life EquationThe differences between the two equations are based on the following assumptions:
Total deaths = current # of abortions minus # of abortions prevented by legal ban minus # of abortions prevented by contraception plus # of women dying in illegal abortions minus # of women saved from dying in legal abortions
- Pro-choicers argue that the legality of abortions will not change the number of abortions performed. On the contrary, pro-lifers contend that a steep drop in the prevalence of abortions will occur when the procedure is outlawed.
- Pro-choicers contend that the pro-life movement is inherently anti-birth control. But I will argue that support for contraception is not at all incompatible with opposition to abortion.
- Pro-choicers posit that if abortion is criminalized women will die. Pro-lifers respond that women have other options when facing unplanned pregnancy, and they also point out that women currently die in legal abortions.
In order to solve each side's respective equation, we need to answer the following questions:
- Does outlawing abortion reduce the prevalence of abortion?
- Can and do pro-lifers support contraceptive use to reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions?
- Are pregnant women in places where abortion is illegal forced to put their health in jeopardy if they are unready to parent? And if so, what is the difference between the number of women who will die in illegal abortions and the number who will die from the complications of legal abortions?
I will answer these questions in the next parts of this series, starting with the prevalence of abortion when it is legal versus when it is illegal.