This blog was previously published in the Des Moines Register.
Former President Bill Clinton stated that abortion should be safe and legal, but rare.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973. It made abortion safe and legal, but not rare. More than 63 million babies have been aborted in the United States in the past 49 years. That’s not a rare number by anyone’s standards. It’s what drove many to the ballot box, hoping that one day abortion truly would be rare.
The heavy lifting of the abortion debate—voting in candidates who nominate and confirm constitutional originalists to the bench—is completed. The Supreme Court recently sent the issue back to the states where it belongs.
Now we begin the next phase—lawmaking at the state level, which could look quite differently throughout the country. But common to all during this time should be a sense of healing and a desire to respect all life, including the mother’s.
Three-quarters of the population believe abortion should be legal if the woman’s life or health is endangered by the pregnancy. About the same percentage believe abortion should be legal if the pregnancy occurs from rape. A woman’s life or health could be endangered if she shares a child with a rapist, especially in a nation that is soft on crime.
Most abortions, though, are happening for other reasons.
If there are 63 million babies being aborted, there are tens of millions of women who have had at least one abortion.
In states that place strong restrictions on abortions, the concern is that abortions will continue at the same rate—they just won’t be legal or as safe.
It’s questionable if the abortion rate would remain the same under that circumstance.
When abortion was legal nationwide, it was used and used widely. Many have had not one, but multiple abortions. Legalization of something tends to lull us into believing it’s an acceptable activity.
Sometimes, it’s not.
Marijuana is now legal in several states. For many, the good old days have returned. But have they? In several states, the speed limit is 80 mph on interstates. Inexperienced 16-year-olds can legally drive that speed and will. But should they? Social media giants can be the messaging police and legally kick off anyone from their platforms, and they do. But is it fair?
Abortion was legal nationwide, and 63 million were aborted. But was it right?
Women who have had abortions are our friends, neighbors and family members. Most tend not to brag about it. That silence says so much. But because it was legal, it may have been enough to suppress doubts and move forward with the abortion anyway. The legality of it may have been the tipping point.
That’s the greatest tragedy of all.
Most of these women made the best decision they knew how to make, at the time they were making it. The fact that abortion was legal at the time likely factored into that decision.
It’s noticeable that the majority of these tens of millions of women are now painfully silent during this upheaval of abortion law.
We all have to take some responsibility for creating a society where abortion has been the acceptable and permanent go-to solution to a beautiful surprise—a new life.
Through our indifference or our zealotry.
Through our vote or our failure to vote.
Through our courage or our fear.
There will always be unplanned pregnancies. But there is hope that there will be fewer abortions, because the conversation has turned to the legality of it.
Then maybe we can get to a place where abortion really does become a rarity.
It will be a life-changer.