Winning the Abortion Wars

Just days before the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we have a new report from the Guttmacher Institute that says the U.S. abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1974. Despite fairly widespread access to the new abortion drug RU-486, the rate now stands at 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44 in 2005, down from a high of 29.3 per thousand in 1981. The number of abortions is also down, from 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.2 million in 2005 (the last year for which data are available).

While pro-choice advocates point to a lack of access to abortion providers and the success of comprehensive sex-ed programs as factors in the decline, pro-lifers say state laws have made a difference.

Bill Beckman, director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee, said he sees the national decline in abortion numbers as a victory for anti-abortion efforts.

“A number of states over the last five or six years have enhanced their pro-life laws, such as requirements for informed consent and parental notice,” said Beckman. “When those laws take effect, the rate of abortion drops. I think the data they’re getting is reflecting that change.”

While I’m looking forward to a thorough analysis of the numbers, the answer is probably both/and rather than either/or. I believe that cultural attitudes also are changing, thanks to the persistent efforts (such as the spread of ultrasound machines) of pro-lifers to keep before the American people the undeniable fact that every abortion ends a human life. And these efforts must be working, if even pro-choicer Hillary Clinton concedes that abortion is a “tragic choice.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Guttmacher study comes on the heels of news that the birth rate is unexpectedly booming in the United States.

An Associated Press review of birth numbers dating to 1909 found the total number of U.S. births was the highest since 1961, near the end of the baby boom. An examination of global data also shows that the United States has a higher fertility rate than every country in continental Europe, as well as Australia, Canada and Japan. …

Experts believe there is a mix of reasons: a decline in contraceptive use, a drop in access to abortion, poor education and poverty.

There are cultural reasons as well. Hispanics as a group have higher fertility rates — about 40 percent higher than the U.S. overall. And experts say Americans, especially those in middle America, view children more favorably than people in many other Westernized countries.

“Americans like children. We are the only people who respond to prosperity by saying, `Let’s have another kid,'” said Nan Marie Astone, associate professor of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University.

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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