Before delving into the abortion issue, we think its prudent to remind our readers that at TQC, our platform is dedicated to promoting the ideals and tenets of the sensible center, where compromise is often discovered. While this sometimes involves highlighting and discussing some uncomfortable hypocrisies, it almost always involves rejecting overly-simplistic black-and-white binaries.
Prima facie, few issues are more divisive in the American collective than the debate over abortion. According to a recent Gallup poll, United States citizens are essentially split between pro-choice and pro-life camps. Indeed, 48% of adult Americans consider themselves “pro-choice,” while 48% define themselves as “pro-life” (4% of Americans claimed they had “no opinion”). Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly to people who reside on the east and west coasts, the dividing line was also just about equal between genders. 48% of women identify as pro-choice and 49% of men said they were "pro-life." One can certainly parse through a litany of data to unearth underlying trends regarding the number of overall abortions, when during gestation those procedures took place, where they took place, and more, but the bottom line is that ~1/2 of Americans support a woman’s right to choose, and ~1/2 do not.
At the Quintessential Centrist, we feel abortion - under most circumstances - is morally wrong (not for religious reasons), but we are “pro-choice,” with the following caveats:
• We support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion without any restrictions in the 1st trimester of pregnancy.
• We support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion in the 2nd trimester only if the woman’s life is in danger or if tests reveal the fetus is afflicted with a congenital defect or other grave ailment. We believe, however, that the standard established by the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision – that abortion is legal until a fetus reaches viability outside the womb (typically @ ~24 weeks) – must be followed. Therefore, even though we respectfully disagree with the tenet set by the Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 Roe decision (and reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992) and generally do not support abortion in the 2nd trimester, we think abortion must remain available and accessible based on the aforementioned set of valid reasons. With the advancement of medical technology and breakthroughs in research, most genetic defects can usually be detected in the first trimester. But there are cases where certain afflictions are not discovered until later. Bringing a severely handicapped person into this world and sacrificing so much to care for them is one of the ultimate forms of altruism. We don’t think ordinary (or exceptional) people should be required to do something exceptional.
• We support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion in the 3rd trimester if and only if the woman’s life is in danger and she cannot be induced nor have an emergency caesarian-section. In the 3rd trimester, a baby can usually be delivered and an abortion should not be necessary. To be clear, there are certainly exceptional cases where a woman's life is in danger and the aforementioned alternatives are not feasible. In this case, we would support a late term procedure.
In short, we think unfettered abortion access is wrong and sensible restrictions should be in place. And, aside from a few specific carve-outs, there are cases late in the gestation period where it is and should remain illegal. Moreover, adopting (excuse the pun) a blindly pro-life stance without exceptions is incorrect. More significantly, denying a woman the right to have an abortion if certain conditions are met under Roe v Wade and reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v Casey, is a civil rights violation.
Now let's take a deeper dive into Americans' views. Although opinion polls show the nation is evenly split between the pro-choice and pro-life camps, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that despite the rage and vitriol surrounding the topic, many Americans actually do have centrist points of view surrounding abortion. To note:
• The majority of Americans (60%) believe that abortion should be legal in the 1st trimester.
• Only a small minority (13%) of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in the 3rd trimester.
• While ~half of Americans see abortion as morally wrong, only 20% of Americans believe it should be illegal.
The two most trusted sources of data on abortion are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute. The CDC asks all 50 states and separate reporting areas to submit data to its Abortion Surveillance Report. However, the CDC cannot force states and reporting areas to submit data; most do, but a few don’t. The Guttmacher Institute takes a national census of abortion providers. The consensus is that the CDC numbers are thought to be a bit too low, while the Guttmacher Institute’s numbers are thought to be too high. What’s important is that the general trends paint an accurate picture of the more granular nuances about the procedure. And they do. The data we will share comes from the CDC.
• In 2015, 638,169 abortions were reported. The number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions have declined across all race/ethnicity groups but well-documented disparities persist.
• Non-Hispanic white women and non-Hispanic black women accounted for the largest percentages of all abortions (36.9% and 36.0%, respectively).
• Non-Hispanic white women had the lowest abortion rate (6.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (111 abortions per 1,000 live births) and non-Hispanic black women had the highest abortion rate (25.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (390 abortions per 1,000 live births). Ratios are 1.5 and 1.3 times higher for Hispanic compared with non-Hispanic white women and 3.6 and 3.5 times higher for non-Hispanic black compared with non-Hispanic white women. (The reasons/theories as to why go well beyond the scope of this article).
• The overall abortion rate was 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years and the abortion ratio was 188 abortions per 1,000 live births.
• ~ two thirds (65.4%) of abortions were performed by ≤8 weeks’ gestation.
• 14.3% of all women who obtained an abortion were married.
• The abortion ratio was 41 abortions per 1,000 live births for married women and 373 abortions per 1,000 live births for unmarried women
Legal but inaccessible, is inherently illegal.
In 1954, the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) ruled in favor of Oliver Brown, a black man who had filed a lawsuit against The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1951 when his daughter was not allowed to attend an all-white elementary school. Brown’s attorneys successfully argued that the “separate (segregated) but equal” standard established in 1896 under Plessy vs Ferguson was unconstitutional because all-black schools offered their students an inferior education. The Supreme Court made the correct ruling by concluding that segregated but equal (education) was inherently unequal and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. With respect to abortion, in our view, legal but inaccessible is inherently illegal and thus constitutes a violation of a woman’s civil rights.
Currently, six states have only one abortion clinic. In South Dakota, for example, the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood is the only place a woman can go to exercise her constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Sioux Falls is located in eastern most part of the state, near the borders of Minnesota to the east and Iowa to the southeast. If a woman residing in the sparsely populated town of Buffalo, South Dakota, located in the northwest part of the state decides she wants to exercise her constitutional right to obtain an abortion, she must drive ~450 miles to Sioux Falls, and then back, a ~900 mile round trip journey.
The average per capita income in the town of Buffalo, South Dakota is ~$13,200. The average car or light truck in the United States gets ~22 miles per gallon. The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the state of South Dakota is ~$2.65. Not including food and shelter, it would cost a woman ~$108 dollars to get to Sioux Falls and back. Account for a basic motel for ~$40 and add in $15 for a burger, snacks and a beverage, and the total cash outlay comes to $163. We also must also consider that many poor citizens are hourly laborers or toil in the “informal” economy; they do not enjoy the same kind of protections and benefits as do white collar or unionized workers. If they do not work, they do not get paid. The minimum wage in the state of South Dakota is $9.10 per hour. Assuming a standard 8-hour work day, if a woman took two days off to travel ~450 miles (and back) to get an abortion, she would lose 16 hours of pay or $145.60. Between the cash outlay to travel to the abortion clinic and lost wages while traveling, the total tab adds up to $308.60. That might not sound like too much to some of our readers, but $308.60 would represent over 2% of this woman’s annual income…then you have to multiply $308.20 by at least 2.
Because in the state of South Dakota, by law a woman is required to get “counseling” and then wait 72 hours before being allowed to obtain an abortion. This leaves our “poor” woman from Buffalo with two sub-optimal choices: 1) drive ~450 miles across the state and back - twice - or pay for lodging and food for at least 3 nights. Put simply, lack of local access which translates into prohibitive cost, deems abortion in South Dakota legal but inaccessible for many of its most vulnerable residents and puts an all but impossible burden on some women. This is illegal and cruel.
Six states, ND, SD, MO, KY, WV and MS have only one abortion clinic. As of this writing, a court in MO is deciding on the fate of the state’s lone provider, Planned Parenthood of Saint Louis. The aforementioned clinic has been forced to litigate with state officials because they refused to renew its license. Should the court rule in the state's favor, Missouri will become the first state in the union to have zero abortion clinics. In addition to MO, other states lead by conservative law makers have proposed legislation called “heartbeat bills.” These states, GA, KY, LA, MO, MS & OH have passed bills that all but ban abortions after a doctor can detect a heartbeat, typically between 6 and 8 weeks. Often, this is tantamount to a total ban because sometimes a woman may not know she is pregnant until around the 7th or 8th week of her term.
In addition to overly restrictive (and illegal) bans pertaining to gestational age and forcing clinics to shudder their doors, some GOP lawmakers from extremely conservative red states have also enacted laws that aim to curtail abortions by making it difficult for doctors to obtain admitting privileges to hospitals as well as other similar measures.
Certain conservatives are being grossly hypocritical here and should be called out. One of the cornerstones of the GOP’s philosophy is upholding the rule of law, yet the main objective of the (unconstitutional) bills they have passed and/or are trying to pass is to circumvent existing law. Conservatives often accuse liberals of being selective (i.e. being open-minded but only if somebody’s views are commensurate with their own -- which in many cases is true) - and for refusing to uphold the letter of the law if their moral compass dictates otherwise. Indeed, conservatives have lambasted liberals for creating “sanctuary cities,” refusing to prosecute undocumented immigrants, and for willfully ignoring requests from U.S. Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE). In short, for these and other examples, they accuse liberals of ignoring and/or circumventing the law as they see fit. And we agree. However, by passing legislation that makes it all but impossible for a woman to obtain an abortion, they are doing exactly the same thing for which they chastise liberals: refusing to uphold the letter of the law if their values dictate otherwise, even though they claim their values are in-part underpinned by upholding the rule of law, which in this case they are working to neuter.
Our main gripe with the radical left is that it has hijacked the pro-choice movement and turned it into a pro-abortion movement. Abortion is a very serious decision that is physically and emotionally gut wrenching for all parties involved. The procedure should not be treated like a trip to the dentist. While we commend activists for standing up for women's constitutional rights, radical leftists who appear as if they are practically proud of abortion and their constitutional right to obtain one have a compromised moral compass. Indeed, in the case of abortion, there is an important distinction between fighting to preserve one’s right to get one - which we support - and being proud of exercising that right - which we do not.
Abortion is certainly a hot button topic. We remind our loyal readers that a more granular and informed analysis can help bridge the differences in our values and objectives. As always, we welcome our readers’ questions, comments, explanations or declarations. We remain malleable and willing to change our minds when facts change or arguments are well researched and persuasive.