Could pro-choice Obama reduce the U.S. abortion rate?
Financial fears and campaign-trail mud-slinging have so dominated the U.S. presidential race in recent weeks that several issues worth serious debate have mostly drifted off the public radar screen. Judging by the latest presidential debate, one of them off on the sidelines now is abortion. This has hit my radar screen, though, because some Barack Obama supporters have made what seems to be an incredible claim — that the most pro-choice candidate in the running could actually lower the overall number of abortions in the United States. Huh?
The Matthew 25 Network, which calls itself “pro-life pro-Obama,” says “an Obama administration will do more than a McCain administration for the cause of life, by drastically reducing abortions through giving women and families the support and the tools they need to choose life.”
Over at Beliefnet, editor-in-chief Steve Waldman has two very interesting posts about this. The first one says that Obama supports Medicaid funding for abortion, which obviously would make getting one easier. The Democratic candidate also supports the Freedom of Choice Act, which “would wipe out state laws, including moderate ones that merely require parental notification for teens seeking abortion.” So it looks like total abortions would rise during an Obama administration.
But Waldman’s second post points to a rarely discussed aspect of the abortion issue: “during Democratic administrations (pro-choice administrations) the average annual abortion rate is virtually identical to that under Republican administrations.” There may be something to the Matthew 25 claim, he says, “however, Barack Obama has severely undermined his ability to make such an argument.”
Waldman’s second post is long and thoughtful, so I won’t try to condense it. Read it in full.
This paradox about abortion rates first caught my attention years ago when I was covering Germany’s reunification. Communist East Germany had abortion on demand while West Germany allowed abortion with several restrictions. When he tried to harmonise all eastern and western laws in an East-West treaty in a hurry before unification in 1990, West German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (who is once again interior minister in Berlin) found to his surprise that “at least according to the statistics, the protection of unborn life is neither more nor less guaranteed in East Germany than it is in West Germany. The number of abortions per capita is about equally high in both parts of Germany.” He and his East German counterpart had to leave the abortion issue out of the treaty because they couldn’t find away to resolve it in the short time available to them. It was left to the future united German parliament to decide and it basically adopted the western law.
We had a heated debate here about a Catholic archbishop calling the Democrats the “party of death.” What do you think of this Matthew 25 claim? Can some pro-choice policies really lower the abortion rate? Or is that not the question to ask at all?