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The so-called dangers of abortion lack any real, substantial standing

Nathan James

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There’s a tactic in the pro-life movement that works like this: abortion opponents argue that abortion is medically unsafe and under-regulated, and they push for the adoption of extreme new safety standards. In some states this tactic has led to the closure of a majority of all abortion clinics, and in Texas it left one million women without an abortion provider within 150 miles.

In Alabama, legislation was recently passed forcing minors to receive parental consent before receiving an abortion and providing lawyers to testify against the minor and for the fetus. Many, including UA’s own Joe Puchner, have defended this law as a way to protect minors’ safety.

So let’s get some facts about the dangers of abortion.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the number of abortion-related deaths in America in 2009 was 12. That’s out of 784,000, meaning that the rate of abortion-related death is 0.015 percent. For comparison, the rate of deaths related to childbirth, or maternal deaths, is about 0.03 percent. In other words, abortion at any point during pregnancy is twice as safe as childbirth.

Time-specific details add clarity to this issue. In the first eight weeks of pregnancy, when most abortions occur, the rate of abortion-related death drops to 0.0001 percent. It’s 20 times more dangerous to give birth in Belarus, which has the lowest maternal death rate in the world, than to have an abortion in the US during those first eight weeks. So when strict regulations lengthen the process of having an abortion, they actually increase the chance that women will be harmed in a late-term abortion.

But that’s not all. In order to fully understand the safety implications of abortion laws, we have to look at the issue of illegal abortions. The World Health Organization estimates that the rate of death from illegal abortions is 0.35 percent, over 200 times as high as legal abortions. Since Texas passed extensive abortion regulations in 2013, the rate of women who admit to having or show signs of having illegal abortions has skyrocketed. Once again, strict abortion laws have actually increased the danger abortion poses to women.

So if strict new abortion regulations don’t actually protect women – and are, in fact, harmful on many levels, why are so many being passed? Well, direct legal attacks on abortion have repeatedly failed, and it seems unlikely that this will change soon. So abortion advocates have turned to nonsensical claims about “women’s health” as a pretext to wall off abortion access for as many Americans as possible.

Essentially, pro-life advocates are showing that they will literally sacrifice women to save fetuses, while simultaneously proclaiming their newfound concern for women’s issues.

To pro-life advocates who would still argue this point, I will say this: No one is fooled by you. Everyone knows that your sudden concern with women is a sham to get around Roe v. Wade. There is not a single American who thinks that you are sincere when you claim to suddenly care about women’s health.

This is why people aren’t fooled: If the religious right really cared about women, they wouldn’t back Hobby Lobby’s decision to deny women medical care on religious grounds. They wouldn’t fight bills for equal pay across gender lines. They wouldn’t have fought the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in the House. They would express concern over the fact that the U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee maternity leave. They would be supporting affirmative consent laws, which have been championed by Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo, Jerry Brown, Jim Beach and Rahm Emmanuel – but no Republican governors.

So next time you want to block access to a constitutionally protected right, show some respect for your audience’s intelligence. Pick a better excuse.

Nathan James is a senior majoring in psychology. His column runs weekly.

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The so-called dangers of abortion lack any real, substantial standing