Dear Pro-Life Advocates,
Let’s just name this now: we do not agree with you. We staunchly believe that abortion is a normal part of comprehensive reproductive health care that women should be able to exercise without restriction, harassment or judgment. We recognize many of the pro-life policies you put forward in effort to lower rates of abortion to be nothing more than an assault on women’s body autonomy and a threat to the health and safety of millions of women around the world.
But that’s not what we want to talk about today. We want you to know that there is a way to bring about a global reduction in abortion rates like you claim to be working towards, and there are natural places of overlap where pro-choice and pro-life advocates can collaborate. But to get there, we need you to take a good hard look at the research and rethink your current strategies.
Pro-life advocates should stop criminalizing abortion
First up: criminalizing abortion. It’s time that pro-life advocates move on from this one. Studies show that rates of abortion do not significantly vary between countries with legal access and countries with legal restriction. In fact, you can find the highest rates of abortion in countries that have an outright ban on the procedure. Laws don’t stop abortion; they just force them underground.
Next up: let’s talk about sex. Some of the pro-life advocates among you will argue that contraception increases sexual activity, and therefore leads to more unintended pregnancies that result in abortion. This is just simply false. Research (and a good bit of common sense) will tell you that contraceptive use actually lowers rates of abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies from ever happening in the first place. In fact, the World Health Organization names increased contraceptive access as one of the most important steps to take towards reducing global rates of unsafe abortion.
And lastly: education. Providing complete, medically accurate information about sex and contraceptives to our youth is critical. This means getting rid of abstinence-only programs and replacing it with comprehensive sex education. It’s no coincidence that in the United States, the states that emphasize abstinence-only have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and birth. In contrast, studies have shown that states with wider access to free birth control methods as well as comprehensive sex education have the lowest abortion rates in the country.
So if you really want to reduce the number of abortions, we suggest you use these evidence-based strategies that actually work: advocate for increased access to contraception, replace abstinence-only curriculums with comprehensive sex education, and stop pushing legislation that leads to clandestine, unsafe abortion. Otherwise, your efforts are no more than political pandering or misguided attempts to moralize abortions away—a strategy we already know is ineffective.
We can unite to reduce the number of unsafe abortions
These are issues on which pro-life and reproductive rights advocates could potentially unite, since we too want to reduce the number of unsafe abortions and increase access to contraception and sexual health information. So if pro-life advocates are ready to come to the table with evidence-based strategy, we are here and we are ready to work.