The issue of abortion is never an easy issue to talk about. The intense passion that the issue invokes in and of itself creates an environment of pure emotion that is not conducive to articulate thought. Ad hominem attacks are issued and incessant philosophical debates begin. Despite what demagogues may have you think, the reality of this issue, like so many other issues, is not black and white. People often forget that abortion was in fact illegal in this country for nearly 100 years before Roe v. Wade. While abortions were criminalized, this did not prevent women from seeking out the procedure. It is estimated that over time, as many as 1 million “illegal” abortions were performed each year leading up to the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case (see “Lessons from Before Roe: Will Past be Prologue?” from the Guttmacher Institute). There is always a way to find an abortion — even if it must be done in ways that are dangerous and illegal — and women have found ways for our entire existence as a species to obtain the procedure (see “The Bad Old Days: Clandestine Abortions Among the Poor in New York City before Liberalization of the Abortion Law” from the U.S National Library of Medicine). The reality is and always has been, that women who desire to terminate a pregnancy will find a way to do so. In fact, this is the reason why the push came in the late 60’s and early 70’s to legalize the procedure. Conservatives and liberals alike saw that the criminalization of abortion did far more harm than it did good. Women sought the procedure regardless and the added harm came from the fact that the women themselves were often irreparably damaged and even killed in the process.
What I am getting at here is that trying to “make abortion a thing of the past” is similar in feasibility to making teen drinking a “thing of the past” or smoking marijuana a “thing of the past” or even driving over the speed limit a “thing of the past.” I want to again note here that I am making a comparison based on feasibility not on the “moral comparability” of these activities. This again, gets into a philosophical debate which still to this day has no concrete, definitive conclusion that can be broadly applied to a society and its policies.
So back to my point, there is not a world where a government entity can feasibly monitor all of its women to ensure they are not obtaining an abortion. The resources necessary to do this are quite frankly insurmountable for government entities not to mention the constitutionality of such a system would stand on very feeble legs if any (as was displayed in Roe v. Wade). Regardless of how you feel about the morality of abortion, we all must come to terms with the reality of the situation that we face. Women will obtain the procedure no matter what. But what we can do is we can ensure that the procedure is safe, that it is regulated, that women are presented with all possible options to ensure they are making the right choice for their family and that all citizens have access to a wide range of affordable contraceptive devices which are the most effective tools at reducing abortion rates. According to the Pew Research Center, this is the stance that seven-in-ten Americans support (see article “About seven-in-ten Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade”). It is a nuanced view, it is a view that makes compromises and it is a view that understands the complexity of the issue. It is my hope that we can all learn to approach political issues in this way.