Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Politics over Progress. Again.

The House of Representatives recently passed a measure that would remove a ban on providing contraceptives to overseas groups that offer abortions.

Many Republican representatives voted against the measure stating that “anything that helps abortion providers should be banned.”

Although it is questionable whether this bill will pass the Senate, if it does, the President has already signaled that he would veto it.

I do not wish to claim a side in the “Pro-Choice”, “Pro-Life” debate in this post, nor do I have to in order to stake a firm position on this particular issue.

This bill should be passed unanimously and the President should be proud to sign it.

The bottom line is that this bill will reduce the number of abortions performed.

Actually, let me add a little more to that bottom line.

This bill will also (assuming that some of the contraceptives are condoms and not just birth control pills) combat the spread of AIDS and other STDs – a great moral, healthcare and financial victory for the donation recipients and the U.S. taxpayers (who are spending tens of billions to treat AIDS in Africa alone). Furthermore, easier access to contraceptives could have positive empowering effects for women in developing countries and less liberal societies.

The argument that donating contraceptives to abortion providers enables the expansion of the service seems nothing short of nonsensical to me. Just how are items that reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies supposed to increase the number of abortions?

I can only see one remotely intelligent argument that tries to answer that question.

"If we provide either cash or in-kind contributions or anything of value to
pro-abortion organizations in other countries, we empower, enrich and enable
them to expand abortion,"

So said Representative Christopher Smith (R –NJ).

In a strictly financial sense, this is true. Money not spent on contraceptives could be used to market abortion services. In theory, it could even be used to hire more doctors to perform the procedures.

We could debate if or how often this would ever happen. We never see commercials or mass promotion of abortion in this country (promoting the preservation of the right is not the same as promoting its arbitrary practice), but it may very well occur elsewhere.

In any case, I believe that a better debate tactic is to grant the opposition’s point as true and then proceed to demonstrate why it is irrelevant to the greater issue.

If we do that here, it becomes clear that this is still a worthy tradeoff if the goal is to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and thereby lower the number of abortions. If a condom costs the U.S. government $0.25 (and this is probably an overestimate given volume discounts) then you would have to believe that a single new $100,000 doctor (hired with the “freed” funds) can perform more abortions than four hundred thousand condoms would prevent.

This is pretty simple math, even for a member of the United States House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, political equations are often even simpler.

A politician’s stance on abortion – particularly a Republican’s – is too often a black and white issue. You must be against Roe vs. Wade and for a law banning abortions. If you support a measure to reduce the number of abortions that even appears to be conciliatory to a Pro-Choice constituency, you expose your right flank in your ever-upcoming election.

Overturning Roe vs. Wade could only result from a Constitutional Amendment (requiring approval from most of the state legislatures, not just the federal Congress) or a new Supreme Court.

This being the case, it is fair to say that individual lawmakers are almost irrelevant to the question of outlawing abortion. Yet a few more politically courageous ones could easily reduce the number of them performed.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

As usual, the Republican Party--politicians and civilians alike--is stuck in a bygone century when it comes to social issues. You need only say the word "abortion," and their fingers go in their ears as they begin chanting "la la la I can't hear you." At that point, any debate is hopeless, because common sense and reason have been forsaken in favor of stubborn, willful obtuseness.