The debate in Iowa was an opportunity for the GOP hopefuls to showcase their stand against abortion, because there’s nothing better than a pissing match about reproductive health to rally the fundraisers and fill the war chest. Here are some quotes from the evening:

Rick Santorum on why abortion should be illegal, even in the event of rape of incest, “To be victimized twice would be a horrible thing. We should surround these women and help them.”

Tim Pawlenty reflected on his legislative record which he felt led to “abortion at historic lows,” bragging that based on “These results, not rhetoric, I may be the most pro-life candidate in this race.”

The candidates clearly do not understand any facts related to abortion (I suspect they don’t care, they’re just after sound bites and money). But seriously, if you are going to discuss a topic then learn about it before hand. First of all, abortion does not victimize women. The rate of serious complications is less than 0.3% and study after study shows no effect on mental health. If I were the moderator I would have asked for clarification from Mr. Santorum for his definition of victimization and to provide medical evidence to prove it.

And Mr. Pawlenty, legislation has little to no effect on abortion rates. the highest abortion rates are in Eastern and Middle Africa, where it is largely illegal.  In Canada, where abortion is legal and free the rate is actually lower than the United States. What restrictive laws have done for American women is raise the price of the procedure and/or made access more difficult. In fact 58% of women say they would have liked to have their abortion sooner, with 60% of women indicating the time it took to raise the money as a major factor.

The most restrictive abortion laws in this country have been enacted within the past 5 years. The abortion rate has, however, remained stable (graph courtesy of the Guttmacher Institute).

Abortion rate, United States

21.6 million unsafe abortions are performed every year world-wide killing 47,000 women, accounting for 13% of all maternal deaths. Lack of access to safe, legal abortion kills women.  But that’s okay? Are some lives more valuable than others? (Why do the moderators never ask these questions?)

The CAUSE of abortion is unintended pregnancies. Yes, there are genetic terminations, but these are a small minority of procedures. And unintended pregnancies are the result of lack of access to contraception. Studies show that abortion rates go down when women use contraception, especially long acting contraception such as IUDs or Depo-provera.

FIfty percent of pregnancies in the United States are unintended and 40% of these end in abortion (it works out to 22% of pregnancies resulting in abortion).  If candidates were serious about preventing abortion they wold talk about the data from 2006, which shows in that year publicly funded family planning services helped almost 2 million women avoid an unintended pregnancy by giving them access to affordable contraception, preventing 810,000 abortions.

There are no studies to support the idea that women feel victimized by abortion.

Laws do nothing to reduce the rate of abortion. They delay access by raising costs, thereby increasing the percentage of later term abortions.

Contraception prevents unplanned pregnancies, and therefore abortion.

If you want to prevent abortion, you need contraception.

The only logical conclusion is that contraception is pro-life.

And I’ll debate any GOP candidate on that subject anytime, anywhere.

And as an aside, abortion laws are expensive. Take the recent Kansas legislation designed to stop clinics from operating. The law was challenged (as they always are) and now the law is costing the tax payers money as it lumbers its way through the legal system. The country is bankrupt, we can’t keep paying to fight the same fight over and over and over again.

Every dollar spent on contraception saves $1.40 in maternal/reproductive health costs. Contraception not only prevents abortions it’s cost-effective. What if all that money spent fighting court battles on abortion was spent on contraception instead? How many more abortions would that prevent than the actual laws?

In a debate, that would be the first question I’d ask.

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  1. Great post Jen. As is so typical for politicians, they speak in a talking point that fires up their supporters in the here and now. The long-term consequences of those talking points are a problem for someone else to deal with down the road.

    I also get the feeling that many of these candidates are opposed to contraception as a whole.

  2. Are they still teaching those bogus abstinence only programs in schools? When I was in school, they told us the truth about sex and how to prevent it. There was nothing wrong with that. Who in their right mind thinks “Just don’t have sex” is good enough? These kids need SEX ED and need to learn about their options. For me, I will tell my kids, “Don’t have sex because you’re not ready!” and immediately follow it with “But if you’re going to do it anyway, here’s what you need to know…” Education is important…crucial, even!

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