When I was about 12 or so and living in Rochester, New York, I used to deliver the Democrat & Chronicle morning paper -- and generally read it cover to cover. There was always a personal classified ad that went this way: "Any girl in trouble and in need of a friend, please call Mrs. Brigadier Giles Brunner at [phone number]." Somehow I knew the ad was directed to girls who were pregnant, scared to death, and with nowhere to turn. Mrs. Brunner was the wife of the head of the local Salvation Army. I found myself wondering if Pastor White of the big Lutheran Church in Houston ever had his wife run such an ad, given the fact he professes such a concern for the unborn. Your move, Pastor White. Christianity has everything to do with action and nothing at all to do with self-righteousness or sanctimony.
The following is the third in my series on a workable Human Life Amendment.
As I pointed out in the first piece, the amendment reads this way: "All abortions after 10 weeks of gestation shall be illegal in these United States except in proven cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother."
I have said that the problem with other proposed amendments (from Huckabee, Brownback, Thompson, and a few others) have no chance of passing. The number of Americans opposed to abortion in all circumstances is 5%. The number of Americans favoring abortions only when the life of the mother is at serious risk are about 10%.
In contrast, the number of Americans favoring abortions in all instances or most instances is 50%- plus. Members of Congress may not always know how to behave in restrooms on in the sending of instant messages, but they do know how to count. They won't vote for measures that lack popular support, because that would endanger their job security. What President John Adams said of the early bureaucracy holds for Congress: "Few die, none retire (unless their names are Chuck Hagel and John Warner).
So, why would my amendment pass? Because two-thirds of the American people approve of abortions in the first trimester. (I know, 10 weeks is not an entire trimester, but it's close enough.) However, the number of Americans who approve of abortions in the SECOND trimester is 25%. The number who approve of them in the THIRD trimester is a mere 14%.
If the Americans polled are speaking truthfully -- and why doubt that? -- the vast majority of our fellow citizens are either uncomfortable with, or downright hostile to, second-and-third-trimester abortions. They may never have heard of the word "quickening," but their attitudes reflect that ancient (and modern) concept.
Trust me, elected officials don't like to cast votes against measures -- like mine -- that have strong popular support.
My proposed amendment would give us a law something like the one in France. There's, it's fairly easy to get an abortion in the first trimester -- and very hard to get one later.
Here's the bad news for pro-lifers, who might ask: "What percentage of abortions take place in the first 10 weeks?" The answer is approximately 75%. As I've said, my proposal would not stop all abortions. The truly good news is that it would stop nearly 200,000 -- and that is a major step forward.
Right now, moral suasion and political action ARE preventing some abortions -- but not nearly enough.
I get back to the fundamental question: what about the other 600,000 abortions? The key question here is: what can we do to sharply reduce those numbers? The answer is we find out who is having abortions -- and why. In other words, exactly what life problems do these women have that cause abortions -- and how do we help solve them?
In Washington, DC problems DON'T get handled -- Iraq, immigration, Social Security Reform, etc. -- because legislators refuse to segment them into manageable sizes. Mega-problems don't get taken care of. Mini-problems often do.
I pointed out earlier than 21%-plus of the women (170,000 annually) having abortions say they do so because they're poor. The answer? We give them money NOT to have an abortion (and to care for the child), and they are no longer "poor."
This is a political variation on the scientific philosophy of Dr. Roy Vagelos, who led Merck Pharmaceuticals during its heyday. The medicines developed under his leadership were meant to attack unwanted things growing in our bodies. Rather than attack the growth directly, Vagelos aimed at the enzymes necessary for the nasty cells to grow. In the case of abortion, we would be aiming at its indirect causes.
Very few people -- outside the extreme fringes of NARAL and Planned Parenthood -- actually want abortions to occur at anything like current levels. It's just that they don't see an alternative. I have one: pay people off.
Here are the reasons women give for having abortions, and some of them are perhaps surprising:
25.5% Want to Postpone Childbearing;
21.3% cannot afford to have a baby -- this is the group I've discussed;
14.1% have marriage or relationship problems in which the partner doesn't want a child;
12.2% believe they're too young or that parents (and others) object to pregnancy;
10.8% believe that having a child will disrupt their education or job;
07.9% don't want anymore children;
06.1%see a risk to fetal or maternal health; and
02.1% have "other" concerns.
In all my years connected with the pro-life movement, I'd never seen these reasons laid out so clearly.
There's a famous old story (so good that it's sad that it's probably apocyphal) about F. Scott Fitzgerald saying to Ernest Hemingway: "The rich are different from you and me." Papa Hemingway replied, "Yes, they have more money."
A majority of abortions in America take place because of money issues or security issues -- and "security" is another name for "money." If people are provided with money, many of them will have children rather than abort them. In other cases, health care -- yet another name for money -- is the primary problem.
Remember what i said in a previous column: But should we actually give people money to have children? In fact, we already do it on a massive scale with the dependent-deductions on federal income taxes.Let me be very candid: Dr. Laurence White's approach -- accusing America of being terminally immoral -- is not going to prevent even one abortion. I don't believe most Americans ARE immoral, at least no more so than Dr. White.
I'm offering proposals that could sharply limit the number of abortions in America. It would bring them down -- hopefully -- to pre-Roe v. Wade numbers. It would do so without trampling on people's rights to conduct their own lives.
What I'm proposing -- and I believe it can work -- will be expensive. But the monies allocated for something like Hurricane Katrina (about $150 billion) are far, far greater than the costs of my "war on abortion" idea. As I've said before, there's no value in being pro-life for the sake of being pro-life.
What do we do -- what political and social actions -- do we take to limit the number of abortions? Politics is highly contentious, but there are some positive steps that we can take.
It's time to go beyond finger-pointing and get in the real business of life-saving.
Stephen R. Maloney
Note: Thursday or Friday I'll have the last column on this subject.