Kmiec advocates that Obama endorse the "95-10 Initiative" which has been put forward by Democrats for Life. The aim of this initiative is to reduce abortion 95% over the next ten years. Who could not be in favor of that? Heck, if I thought it seriously within the power of the Democratic Party to reduce abortion by 50% in ten years, I'd pretty seriously consider voting for them. Is it time for me to consider changing my voter registration? Perhaps not yet.
So what exactly does this 95-10 Initiative consist of?
Preventing pregnancy is an important part of reducing the abortion rate in America. There are several ways to address prevention, but there is no clear consensus because of ethical, religious or personal reasons. There are several bills before Congress that address pregnancy prevention. While we have not endorsed a particular bill, we support finding the most effective way to reduce unplanned pregnancies. We cannot deny that abstinence is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy, but we also cannot turn our heads and pretend that our children are not engaging in risky behavior or the fact that contraception is not 100 percent effective. The Federal government has made a commitment to support prevention efforts and allocated a record $288.3 million in FY 2005 for family planning under title X. The program provides access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them. A priority is given to low-income persons.So unless I'm missing something: the two things which are intended to reduce abortion by 95% are an increase in funding for both abstinence-based and contraception-based programs to avoid "unwanted pregnancies", and an significant increasing in funding (active and through tax credits) supporting adoption and providing services to single mothers.
The Federal government has not made that same commitment to those who wish to carry their children to term. We support helping pregnant women many who believe abortion is their only option. Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-TN) and Pro-life Democrats in Congress who share this same commitment will introduce the Pregnant Women Support Act, a comprehensive bill to provide support for pregnant women who want to carry their child to term. Some of the programs included are: establishing a toll-free number to direct women to places that will provide support and Pregnancy Counseling and Childcare on University Campuses, requiring doctors to provide accurate information to patients receiving a positive results from prenatal testing and counseling in maternity group homes, making the Adoption Tax Credits Permanent and Increase Tax Credit The legislation would eliminate pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, supports Informed Consent for Abortion Services, increases Funding for Domestic Violence Programs, requires the SCHIP to cover pregnant women and unborn children. It further provides free home visits by registered nurses for new mothers, incentives to reduce teen pregnancy and provides protection for pregnant college students who wish to continue their education.
Is that even vaguely realistic?
I must admit, I'm very, very skeptical. Imagine you had unlimited financial and human resources to throw at the problem of providing enough support to women with "unwanted pregnancies" that they would not abort. Truly unlimited. Could you provide enough support that there would be a 95% reduction in abortions?
Well, one thing you could clearly not do is reduce how physically arduous pregnancy is. (Watching the intrepid MrsDarwin, this is rather top-of-mind for me lately.) You gain weight. You get sick. You're tired all the time. You have trouble getting around. And labor and delivery are clearly not fun. I in no way think that these difficulties justify abortion, but if you're dealing with someone who does not think that abortion is morally wrong, and who really didn't want to be pregnant in the first place, I can see why the physical effects of pregnancy (even if there were no financial or familial or career hardship at all involved) would seem like a good reason to abort. And there's nothing that financial incentives could do to reduce that.
But let's say that our hypothetical woman with the unwanted pregnancy is not daunted by pregnancy itself -- she's worried about what having a child will do to her plans in life. Can enough support be provided to her that she sees adoption or single-parenthood as being a better option than abortion? I'm not sure.
If you don't have either a conviction that abortion is wrong, or an inability to practically and safely get an abortion, what makes adoption a better option? Either way, you have no kid to look after in the long run, but with adoption you have to go through pregnancy, and you have the knowledge that you do indeed have a child out there, who doesn't know you. So it seems like short of a conviction that abortion is wrong (or an inability to get one) abortion is probably more attractive unless there's some sort of big benefit you get for putting your child up for adoption. One could provide such a benefit, say some sort of large monetary compensation for putting a child up for adoption, but if one did that, one would have the side effect of encouraging women desperate for money to have "extra" children, and also put a strong financial incentive on women/families that would otherwise want their children to give them up for financial gain.
Let's leave that for a moment and instead consider a woman in an unwanted pregnancy who doesn't like the idea of adoption, but might be open to keeping her child if she can get enough support that it won't be a major burden on her life. Can we provide enough support to her that single parenthood looks like a better option than abortion? Certainly, if she believes that abortion is wrong, or has a desire to be a mother, then we can remove the obstacles that seem to make that impossible. But if she doesn't think it's wrong and is not enthusiastic about becoming a mother unless it means no setbacks in her existing plans, the situation becomes much more difficult. Even in a stable, married family parenthood involves a lot of sacrifices. Being a single parent is, by nature of not sharing the work, even harder. So if we were to somehow overcome all those difficulties, we'd actually be making it easier and more attractive to be a single parent then to be a married parent. It doesn't take a whole lot of imagine to recognize that if that were even possible, which I rather doubt, it would mean mounting a fullscale assault on marriage.
But let's return to the first half of the 95-10 Initiative, the pregnancy prevention program. This seems to contain the usual contradictory "abstinence works best, but let's push birth control as well" approach. As it concedes, all forms of contraception have a failure rate even if used well. If used inconsistently or incorrectly (as is clearly possible or even likely when we're dealing with the young, the uneducated, and the poor -- the three groups with the highest abortion rates) the rate at which those using birth control get pregnant becomes much higher.
And, of course, the more we encourage people to use birth control (and the more we try to reduce the difficulties associated with single parenthood, as discussed above) the less scary we make the consequences of pre-marital of sex look. So by pushing birth control and making single parenthood easier, we make it likely that more people will be sexually active before marriage, which in turn means more people getting hit with the birth control failure rate.
Looking at all this, I can't see how this proposal would reduce abortion much at all, much less 95%. It's a valiant attempt, and very well intentioned I am sure, but I just don't see how it could achieve much of what it hopes to achieve. That's because, at root, if you really don't believe that abortion is wrong, you don't have much of a reason not to have one. And if you don't think that having sex outside of marriage will result in seriously bad consequences, you're a lot more likely to try it.
That's not to say that we shouldn't be providing help to those brave women who decide to follow through with unexpected pregnancies -- especially young or single or poor women who stand to suffer the most for making the right decision. We should do all that we can to help them. But if we want to see a significant reduction in abortion and in unwanted pregnancies the only way to achieve that is through words and deeds that convey having sex outside of marriage is wrong (and also a very bad idea) and that abortion is very wrong indeed. And it's hard to insist that abortion is wrong while at the same time insisting that it should be legal, widely available, and state funded.
I do very much want to see a viable pro-life movement within the Democratic party, even if that would decrease the electoral success of my own preferred party, but I don't see how you can get anywhere with it unless you go at the root of the matter and insist that abortion is wrong and should not be available. And that means going up against the Democrats (and Republicans) who are pro-choice.