With the likely confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, it’s important to consider the ramifications of re-instating government control over reproductive issues. If legal abortion is struck down, conservatives will achieve a long-sought goal. But like the dog that catches the car, what’s next?

Recently, I called the offices of Missouri Sens. Blunt and Hawley, who both support criminalizing abortion. I asked: If Roe v. Wade is overturned, how do they plan to deal with women who seek illegal abortion. The uneasy silence was telling. I was informed the senators have not provided any statements on this crucial detail.

No one celebrates abortion. Most people, including progressives, believe it is a choice of last resort. I’d like to see more progressive leaders publicly acknowledge that this is an issue of profound moral and religious concern.

I’m a progressive. I’m pro-life, and I’m a realist. No matter what strategies we pursue, we won’t completely eliminate abortion. But with a multifaceted approach, we can greatly reduce it. This is where I and my conservative pro-life friends and family disagree.

The default position for most pro-life conservatives is to overturn Roe v. Wade. This may be well intentioned, but in reality it is a feel-good nonsolution. Abortion continues; it just goes underground. It is no more effective in reducing abortion than Prohibition was in curtailing alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Multiple studies, according to the Lancet Medical Journal, “reinforce the fact that restricting access to abortion makes no significant difference to the number of women who choose to have one.”

Cutting off a branch — outlawing it — is futile. To reduce abortions, we must address the root causes as to why women seek them.

Access to birth control is crucial. Planned pregnancies are rarely aborted. A recent study by researchers at Washington University involving almost 10,000 young women over several years, reports that “providing birth control to women at no cost, substantially reduces unplanned pregnancies and cuts abortion rates by a range of 62% to 78% compared to the national rate.”

Every child should have ongoing, age-appropriate sexual education. Knowledge is power to make wise decisions. Multiple evaluations of comprehensive sex education programs show that these programs “help youth delay sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, reduce number of sexual partners and increase condom and contraceptive use. Importantly, the evidence shows youth who receive comprehensive sex education are not more likely to become sexually active,” according to AdvocatesforYouth.org. Less risky sex equals less abortion.

Women must be treated with dignity, not as objects. We must support equality in our society; men and women should have the same value in every respect. It is telling and troubling that our male-dominated government has still not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA, first introduced in 1923, is designed to guarantee equal rights for all citizens regardless of sex; it seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment and other matters.

Finally, and most importantly, children must have the opportunities needed to thrive. Yet, most conservatives who fight to outlaw abortion ignore these critical issues. If these children grow up without hope and succumb to the violence around them, we jail them and sometimes put them to death. The hypocrisy is astounding.

Being pro-criminalization on abortion does not make one pro-life. It is disheartening that many religious leaders fail to acknowledge the complexity of this moral issue and tacitly — sometimes enthusiastically — endorse candidates who falsely claim to be pro-life in order to get the religious vote. I refuse to accept the simplistic reductionism that is at the root of the conservative argument. Since Overturning Roe v. Wade is the lease effective option, and because I am pro-life, I do not support candidates who advocate for it.

Catherine Garner does volunteer social work with girls and women in St. Louis.


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