In January, the New York state Legislature removed many restrictions to abortions after 24 weeks, guaranteeing a “fundamental right” to the procedure. On Tuesday, the Alabama state Legislature passed a measure that would prohibit almost all abortions during any term. In the four-month interim between the two legislative actions, a slew of other states have taken legislative action aimed at either expanding and restricting access to abortion procedures.
Anti-abortion supporters hope their bills will wind their way through the judicial system and end up at the Supreme Court, while abortion proponents aim to shore up legal protections for “reproductive autonomy” if the battle comes to a head.
So far, nothing has changed except the loudness of the rhetoric.
Here are some realities: The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control reported 638,169 legally induced abortions in 2015, the latest year available. Other research centers put that number higher. Still, 2017 marked the lowest abortion rate since 1973. Experts attribute the decrease to widespread access to birth control. Additionally, several reports affirm Americans are having fewer sexual relationships.
Now adding to the complexity of the legal disputes of abortion is a scientific component. As medical care innovates and evolves, scientists find new thresholds for neurological development and reactions to pain. And, as Deseret News reporter Jennifer Graham writes, prematurely born babies have increasing rates of survival at younger ages. It’s now within the realm of possibility for a child born at 20 weeks to fully develop outside the mother’s womb.
Those developments can be medical miracles to parents, but they hardly add clarity to the political situation, especially when both sides would rather suit up with swords and shields than remove their battle gear and listen.
Workable public policy won’t be found on the extremes, like New York and Alabama, nor will a higher commitment to principle be heard over a shouting match. And it would be foolish to think a handful of laws could change internal motivations that predate even the divisive Supreme Court ruling four decades ago.
Seeing past the bomb-throwing will require a higher degree of reverence than what the country has grown accustomed to.
We have and will continue to advocate for the sanctity of life, but we also recognize the extraordinary implications that position bears. To respect the unborn life demands the same level of respect for all walks of life. It applies as much to the humane treatment of asylum seekers at the border as it does a grandparent aging alone. It means seeing divine humanity within the drug addicted, the homeless, the disabled and the mentally ill.33 comments on this story
In that broader context, America is failing. There’s no shortage of lives to honor, but the present culture of contempt, unparalleled in recent history, destroys reverence for all and disparages others. An “ends justify the means” attitude cares more about political victory than helping individuals, and party fundraising too often benefits from doubling down on a wedge issue rather than seeking viable compromises.
Societies never rise higher than how they treat their most vulnerable. Returning to reverence for all life would lift marginalized populations, including the yet-to-be-born, more than political bickering ever has. Add to reverence sound public policy, and soon Americans could create a powerful force that elevates all lives in all stages.