A number of misleading Social Media posts have circulated in recent weeks: some inaccurately claiming that Presidential elections and Supreme Court nominations are not important to building a culture of life; other posts misleadingly claim Democratic presidents bring declines in abortion numbers. Although the claims don't hold water, they are worth addressing to equip our members with information to help educate those who believe these false notions. The posts are red herrings that distract people from the point that the Democratic Party platform promotes abortion as a good thing and protects the corrupt abortion market. Hypothetically, in the time of slavery, if there had been a decline in the number of slave deaths or some such thing during the term of a pro-slavery president that wouldn’t justify voting for the pro-slavery candidate.
The Abortion Numbers Are Skewed Although these posts cite actual abortion data from the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute, the yearly comparisons don’t always include data from every state, as explained by Michael J. New at LiveAction.org. Adding to the points made in the article: There hasn’t been much change in abortion regulation at the federal level, but there has at the state level over many years, so the circumstances most relevant to abortion numbers in those years would be which party controlled the gubernatorial offices and/or the state legislatures. However, even that would be a serious over simplification.
Causes of Abortion Rate Shifts Are Complicated A case in point: One of the biggest drops in reported cases appears to be in 1998, during the Clinton years, however, in addition to the point made in New’s analysis (that California’s abortion numbers (among other states) haven’t been included in CDC data since 1997), 1998 was also a time when both houses of Congress had a Republican majority (which often goes hand-in-hand with power shifts at state levels) and what is likely more significant during that time, Partial Birth Abortion Ban bills gained traction shifting public opinion on abortion across the country even though the federal ban wasn’t passed in US Congress till 2003.
State Abortion Restrictions Matter Other important factors at the state level, even admitted by the Guttmacher Institute are state restrictions: "The question of what is behind these trends has important policy implications, and the 2011–2017 period warrants particular attention because it coincided with an unprecedented wave of new abortion restrictions. During that timeframe, 32 states enacted a total of 394 new restrictions,3,4 with the vast majority of these measures having taken effect (that is, they were not struck down by a court).” [Emphasis added; see Guttmacher Institute.]
Was it generally Democrats who passed those 394 restrictions? Not likely. Guttmacher goes on to downplay the significance of those state restrictions (unconvincingly, I think) but the research arm of Planned Parenthood is unable to deny the effect of so-called TRAP laws: "The only exception here may once again be TRAP laws. Four of the states hit hardest by the consequences of TRAP laws over this time period in terms of clinic closures also saw declines in the abortion rate that were larger than the national average of 20%: Arizona (27%), Ohio (27%), Texas (30%) and Virginia (42%).13 Kentucky, which lost one of its two clinics because of the implementation of TRAP regulations, had an abortion rate decline that was slightly lower than the national average (18%).” [ibid]
Some TRAP laws (which require abortion facilities to meet the same safety standards as other ambulatory surgical facilities) have been struck down by the US Supreme Court (most recently in a majority decision including Justice Roberts, on a technicality, as noted by the left-leaning Vox).
Human Response to Fear Comes into Play Other factors in abortion rate fluctuation may include economic crises such as during the presidency of Bush Jr. (9-11-2001, Katrina in 2005, and 2008 market crash) which were not his fault but did effect the economy and people’s sense of wellbeing, all of which do likely impact abortion numbers. (Note that, according to CDC numbers, in 2002 (the year following 9-11) and 2006 (following Katrina) abortions increased somewhat, rather than declined as had been a constant trend for many years; and 2008 saw a less significant drop than in other years.) Unfortunately, it may be that 2020 has been a year of increased abortions (or at least a smaller drop than the trend), due to health department mandated lockdowns where hospitals and health clinics restricted access to healthcare even as abortion clinics ignored closure orders; and due to economic insecurity for many people and the incredible fear imposed on them by the media and state executives.
Chemical Abortions on the Rise In any case, once again, minor abortion restrictions themselves don’t always have direct impact on abortion, but they inevitably affect public mindsets. That being said, even with the stats we have, it may not be entirely accurate to conclude abortion numbers are dropping as much as the reported data indicate. There are still many illegal abortions, and they are becoming more accessible with chemical abortions.
Part II: Are Presidential Elections Important to the Protection of Human Life?
If you understand the history, it’s undeniable that the Supreme Court is key to making abortion illegal in the US, but obviously, it couldn’t end abortion. Other forms of homicide are illegal but they still happen, modern day slavery/human trafficking is illegal and still happens (in fact it is enabled by abortion). It would be wrong and ridiculous for those to be made legal with the rationale that they’re going to happen anyway. As a type of murder, abortion ought to be illegal, even if it can’t be stopped altogether. There are plenty of people who’ve had abortions who, by their own admission, would not have done it if it were illegal; and that’s common sense.
SCOTUS Did Essentially Legalize Abortion One post (by an evangelical pastor who claims to be pro-life but apparently doesn’t think elections are all that important) claimed that Roe v. Wade did not legalize abortion, since, in 1972, abortion was already legal in 20 states. The post doesn’t mention the other 30 states where abortion was illegal in 1972 but became legal de facto because of Roe and Doe. Additionally, in most of the states where abortion was legal before Roe, it was extremely limited (i.e., to save the life of the mother) but the limitations varied by state. Roe v. Wade along with Doe v. Bolton, essentially made abortion legal up to 9 months of pregnancy in all 50 states, for any reason whatsoever. All of the state legalizations prior to Roe had been fairly recent and were part of the push of the sexual revolution, which made abortion increasingly sought. However, the numbers of illegal abortions claimed during the 1973 SCOTUS cases were later shown to be fabricated. The fact that there were lots of abortions happening in the decade before Roe, was, in part, because it was legalized in some places and was being heavily pushed by many people especially within the sexual revolution. The fact is, though, we don’t know how many abortions there were before it was legalized by the SCOTUS and a documentation system put in place.
Comparing 2020 to 1972 Another idea floating around is that, since (according to available data) the current abortion rate is actually lower than in 1972, reversing Roe would cause the US to revert to 1972 numbers, but this is clearly a non sequitur; 1972 was before ultrasound still-pictures and video windows to the womb were common; before babies could survive outside the womb at only halfway through pregnancy and before people had heard about things like partial-birth abortion and people like Abby Johnson. Some posts insinuate – as many people who are ignorant of the pro-life movement do—that not much has been done on the local level to help mothers, but what he doesn’t seem to understand is that pro-abortion legislators, supported by pro-abortion activist state and federal judges (not just the SCOTUS) have often made those efforts difficult.
The Courts Have Remained Relevant to Abortion Law in the US Revisionist and progressive judges often strike down common sense laws to protect women and children from abortion and have consistently upheld the 1973 abortion decisions in spite of well formed dissents from justices in the minority. Even if reversing Roe left abortion legal in some states, there would certainly be fewer children vulnerable to the atrocities of abortion, but overturning Roe doesn’t necessarily mean a patchwork of laws in each state. Much depends on the wording of the case and subsequent federal legislation that could be upheld by future SCOTUS cases, which undoubtedly there would be. There’s no question the Supreme Court is important for ending legal abortion and helping protect women and preborn babies from the devastating consequences of abortion. Aside from the current makeup of the SCOTUS (assuming confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett), the balance of the court could change more than once in the next few years, as there are three justices over the age of 70 (one is 82), three are in their sixties and, regardless of age, one never knows when retirement or death deprives us of another justice. Beyond the current nomination, the president in 2021 will determine the balance of justices who uphold Constitutional law from an originalist and natural law perspective and could transform the landscape of abortion in America.