Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some good news about abortion

There are fewer abortions per capita in the United States now than in the year before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there were 825,564 legal abortions in theU.S. in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available. The population of the U.S. was estimated at 305 million in 2008, so there were 0.002707 abortions per citizen in that year. In 1972 (the year before the Roe v. Wade decision), there 586,760 legal abortions and the population of this nation was estimated at 209,896,021 for a ratio of 0.002795.

The “official” abortion rate of abortions per woman aged 15-44 remains higher for 2008 at 16 per 1,000 versus 13 per 1,000 in 1972. However, there were far more illegal, unreported abortions in 1972 than in 2008. No one really one knows how many illegal abortions there were before Roe v. Wade, but estimates range from200,000 to 1.2 million per year. Even if the lower number is used, the abortion rate for 1972 would be considerably higher than 2008 when illegal pre-Roe abortions are taken into account.   

It is true that the CDC abortion numbers for 2008 are incomplete with numerous states not reporting. But the numbers for 1972 were not complete either. Nonetheless, even when using the National Right to Life current estimate of 1.2million abortions per year in the U.S., when even a low estimate for illegal pre-Roe abortions is factored in, the abortion rate now is lower compared to 1972.

Just to be clear, I think abortion purely for birth control is morally wrong. Yet, in all the heat surrounding the debate about Todd Akin’s reprehensible comments, it seems appropriate to point out that there is some good news to report concerning abortion. Apparently improved sex education and improved birth control methods have resulted in an abortion rate in the U.S. that is now lower than the rate of pre-Roe days.

I always try to be careful how I discuss the emotionally charged issue of abortion. About 23 years ago, when I was an Associate Pastor of a church as a seminary student, I taught the Sunday evening adult discipleship class. One evening the assigned topic in our discipleship quarterly was abortion. I came prepared with a pretty hardline, anti-abortion lesson, armed with information that I obtained beyond that which was outlined in the quarterly.

As soon as I introduced the topic, I noticed a change in the facial expression and body language of a single mother in the class who was in her early 30’s. She was a new Christian, baptized only weeks before this class. She never spoke during the lesson, which was unusual for her. She left church after the class and never came back.

We reached out to her numerous times, but it did no good. She never said that she had an abortion, but I’m guessing that she did. She did not appear angry over my stand in class. Rather, she seemed ashamed of herself. Too ashamed to return no matter what we said.  

I learned from that experience. While Christians must never compromise on the issue of the sanctity of life, we must always respond to everyone with the love and compassion that Christ would have us exhibit. Behind every abortion in this country is a woman who needs to experience the love of Christ through the followers of Christ. We’re all sinners and we must not allow anti-abortion zeal to overwhelm our duty to love our neighbors.