Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 1, 2012 4:02PM

I’m Pro-Life. So why do I support Planned Parenthood?

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Can we have the term “Pro-Life” back, if everyone else is just going to misuse it?

I’m pro-life because I value all human life. I value the lives of every person living in my country. I value the lives of children living in poverty, and victims of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the third world. I value the lives of criminals on death row, homeless living in the streets, and soldiers serving our country abroad.

I also value the nascent human life of the unborn.

So why aren’t I trying to defund Planned Parenthood, calling abortion doctors “murderers,” and petitioning the federal government to overturn Roe vs. Wade?

For that matter, why haven’t I emptied my bank account – and demanded that the government do the same – to send meals and vaccines to every person on the planet? Why don’t I spring for motel rooms for every homeless person I meet, unlock the cells in every prison, and demand our country surrender every war?

These would be ridiculous actions because they completely miss the point. They substitute ideologies for solutions, and favor short-term irrational emotion rather than long-term pragmatic decisions.

Sound familiar?

I want the abortion rate in this country – and every country – to plummet. That’s a given.

But it’s not going to happen by overturning Roe vs. Wade, or cutting funding for healthcare to low-income women and families. It’s going to happen by expanding healthcare access, contraceptive use, and sex education.

This is speaking from overwhelming international and historical evidence.

Russia has (and has had) one of the highest abortion rates in the world. But a RAND Corporation study that tracked the heavy drop in the late 1980s and 1990s in Russia observed that it was expansion of contraceptive access that curbed the practice. (http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB5055/index1.html)

Or take Uganda, where abortion is illegal and sex education focuses exclusively on abstinence: the abortion rate there is more than double what it is in the United States. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/world/12abortion.html?src=tp)

Researchers at the University of California saw a 46% decline in the odds of an abortion when low-income women had access to public healthcare (or any healthcare) that provided contraception in year-long supplies. (http://healthland.time.com/2011/02/25/want-to-slash-the-abortion-rate-dole-out-a-years-supply-of-birth-control-pills/)

Where is the lowest abortion rate? The Netherlands – where abortion (and prostitution) are completely legal. What do they have that we don’t? Accordingly to U.S. News & World Report and the Guttmacher Institute, their low abortion rate is credited to very comprehensive sex education and easy access to contraceptives. (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-women/2009/10/14/abortion-down-contraception-up-recipe-for-health-reform)

An ideological war on abortion that ignores the data and sets its sights on low-income women who lack proper education and resources must stop. The Pro-Life movement must make reducing the rate of abortion the goal, and seek rational methods and solutions that will serve this purpose.

If the only thing that matters is righteous ideology without concern for results, then we want the term “pro-life” back. You’re using it wrong.

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Great! What many pro-choicers and pro-lifers have in common is the desired reduction in abortion- which means education, healthcare, contraception, legal agency, and support.
You hit it.
I am Pro Choice because I do not feel I can judge another woman's circumstances, but have always ultimately wanted abortion to be made somehow unnecessary. That is never going to happen, but it can be made very very rare.
Well put. Very well put, indeed.
Stop making so much sense! :-)
Very well said. Rated. If you can prevent a pregnancy you don't want before it begins, then you have no need for an abortion. The more people know, and the more readily they have access to safe and effective contraception, the less likely they are to A, have unprotected sex, and B. need an abortion,or become parents before they're ready for the responsibility.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! As Planned Parenthood comes under an egregious attack via our Governor here in Wisconsin, this is the kind of common sense argument that has been quickly brushed under the rug---
Congrats on this piece being published on Salon. I'm glad that it will get wider readership.
You hear that sound? It's me, shaking my fist in your direction.

I wanted to write this article, but you beat me to it.

Damn you, John Saveland! Damn you to hell!!!!!
You are addressing an important issue with a strong voice. Well done. These issues are never as simple as some self righteous *** want to make them.
Thank you, John, for your well-documented analysis of the illogic of opposing both abortion and contraception. I also appreciate your compassion for children without food, the homeless, and others.

I will like to address the logic inconsistency of opposing both abortion and contraception. Although I can't speak for all the people who oppose Planned Parenthood, I can speak for why some members of my family oppose that organization and any organization providing similar services.

This particular branch of my family belong to a religion that believes that men OWN women, that a father owns his daughter until the father GIVES the daughter to a husband, who then owns his wife. My relatives' opposition to Planned Parenthood is that Planned Parenthood's services make is possible for women to sin. "Sin" being defined as being able to make her own decisions as to the person she marries, when she marries, and when she has a child.
Yes! Finally a Pro-Lifer who GETS it. Thank you!

Rated. And congrats on the Editor's Pick!
So articulate and precise as to what is missing from this debate that seems to never end while making some hate others.
In the region where I live (the mid-south), sex education is abstinence-only, yet study after study here proves that this approach simply never works. I also read an article recently that the Bible Belt, where logic and true education is almost practically crimes, also has the highest number of teen pregnancies. Having lived in California for a long time, I am embarrassed and saddened that my native region of the country can be so anti-abortion yet they do not get it regarding intelligent solutions and the obvious FACT that abstinence is not the answer. I also find it frustrating that the south is typically also harsh on those who carry these unwanted or unintended pregnancies to term while denying care to those who are unable to provide for their children or themselves, despite the reasons.
When my husband (of 34 years) and I were in our early 20s, we lost our first daughter due to a medical mistake. One of my coworkers, a very militant anti-abortion activist, was the least understanding of our loss. Although she was full term, our daughter was considered a "nobody" by this anti-abortion person, who said that since we didn't have our daughter for any length of time, thereby not getting to know her, we should just "move on with our lives" as we could probably have more children. Lindsay was a human being to us but not to her. I have always had difficulty understanding this double standard of most anti-abortion people I have met during my 50 plus years.
I also agree that being solutions oriented is crucial to helping to alleviate much suffering in the world. I just wish that, in my part of the country, there were more people who understood it is about finding good solutions rather than dogma or ideology. But, it is the Baptist way to be irrational and as long as these people have theirs the including local power or clout, everyone else be damned and don't criticize the hypocrisy in lifestyles of these ideologues.
Great points, stated forcefully and succinctly.
Here are some things to consider.

1) If one wants to reduce the number of abortions, one should not support the number one provider of abortions (even if the provider does other things one supports).

2) As you no doubt know, correlation does not prove causation. In any case, the correlation numbers are not obviously on your side as you propose. In the U.S., there is high access to contraceptives, but nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended (and about 40% of these end in abortion).

3) Reducing the number of abortions is a noble goal, but it is not enough if abortion is an injustice. Compare this to the death penalty and suppose for the sake of argument that the death penalty is unjust. Indeed, we want to reduce the number of criminals who are unjustly executed, but we also want to right the wrong in the law.
At a time when nonprofits are fighting each other because Congress is unfairly attacking one, your message is much needed by this woman who works at International Planned Parenthood. Thank you.
John, great, well supported post. It's really astounding how many attempting to cut-off access to abortion, despite its legality under the law, is that they are also shutting down the most viable way to reduce the number of abortions/unwanted pregnancies.... contraception and education.
It's interesting how dimisive some are of this and the studies you mentioned by stating "correlation does not prove causation". Correlation does not always on its own support causation but with additonal evidence presented in those studies it turns out this correlation is well supported.
I think Rachel Maddow just showed your post on the tee vee....
Not only are you now "famous", you make a great deal of sense.
Great post. The problem with it is that all rapid anti abortion types would take issue with your statements.

"I want the abortion rate in this country – and every country – to plummet. That’s a given.

But it’s not going to happen by overturning Roe vs. Wade, or cutting funding for healthcare to low-income women and families. It’s going to happen by expanding healthcare access, contraceptive use, and sex education."

Most pro choice people believe exactly as you do. That is why we fight for safe and legal abortion, contraception and comprehensive sex education. The anti's fight all of those things. So you appear to be like many of us, actually pro choice. Choosing to support comprehensive sex education and make contraception accessible is what makes safe and legal abortion not as necessary.

I have had many women tell me they are pro life and also tell me that if someone they knew, like their daughter needed an abortion, they would definitely find a way to get that for them. I have had many women who are Catholics tell me that they are pro life but they use birth control and have had abortions but they consider that their personal business and support the church and its pro life stance. When people decide to be honest about their ideas regarding this issue, we can actually win more hearts and minds to the whole triad of things that surround sexual activity, education, contraception and abortion access for all, regardless of race, religion and socio -economic status. The idea of an abortion should be if medically necessary in my opinion. That is my personal opinion. I do not expect people to believe what I believe. They are entitled to believe what they want to. I feel that women should be able to make that kind of a decision with their doctor, their clergy and their spouse if they chose to. I trust women, I think they are capable of making decisions about their own bodies.
With you all the way. The state should not be making such difficult and personal decisions for us, and I wish the churches would stop making it such a big issue, and start focusing on the positive things, not the regulatory things. Pro life + choice.
Well said, John. I especially appreciate that you took the time to provide quantitative examples of outcomes from various policies. Bottom line: wherever we stand on the legality of abortion, there's so much more we could be doing than emoting out of sense of moral superiority and drama-lust.
One of the BEST posts I have ever read...
It’s the Not-so-New wave of the Righteous right at work again, they have been doing this all over the country for more than a year now. I’m so glad people are finally taking notice of this. Great story.
Thank you for posting this article. This articles a lot of things I've been thinking about this issue. I, too, want women and children's lives to be valued. I would like to see abortion become rarer. But the so-called "pro-life" solution is based on pathos not logos, and it's not working. Thank you again for posting this intelligent, reasoned article.
Standing. Applauding. Cheering. Well said, sir.
I am with you. And have tried to make that clear on my posts. Pro-life is about education. Its about being rational. Its about safe-sex. Its about community leaders within churches and other non-for profits (if the government won't put it on the agenda) to teach the uneducated the "cost" of family rearing. Its about teaching that a one night stand can lead to a thousands of nights of responsibility. And so on...Yes...hooray....thanks for being so articulate and welcome to OS.
How do we get this post on the front page of every newspaper in the country and on the news every hour of the day????
Great post. I always hated the term pro-life too, because the opposite is not anti-life. I think it should be pro-choice and anti-choice.
I enjoyed every little bit part of it and I will be waiting for the new updates. I am very much pleased with the contents you have mentioned. clasament anglia
I agree with you, so long as you also eliminate "pro choice". If people were proud of what they are doing, they would say "pro abortion" and "anti abortion". Don't give me that bs about nobody is for abortion. There is a lot of money to be made in the racket. And the term "reproductive rights" is only of interest to copyright lawyers and the publishing industry.
Guess what? I'm pro-life and I support women's reproductive rights because I'm a pro-choice lover and defender of life. And I support Planned Parenthood, and I appreciate you bringing this up.

I'm tired of the dishonest rhetoric and the dishonest tactics (faux concern over clinic building standards for example) that ends up implicitly calling those who differ about the metaphysical status of a fetus "anti-life" or "pro-death"!
Thank you, sir. The kind of fair and balanced writing that this nation needs!
I am pro-choice. The opposite of pro-choice is anti-choice NOT pro-life. I'd bet that we are all "pro-life." Who among us will label him/herself "anti-life?"

But I don't think that what you are expressing here is a particular philosophy of either the pro-choice or anti-choice groups. What you are offering is a sound, provably effective method of ensuring that the "pro/anti" question arises as seldom as possible. I applaud your good sense.

It is time for both pro and anti people to collaborate to achieve the much desired result of reducing the numbers of women who have need of abortion. I seriously doubt that such need can be totally eliminated but the hard evidence is clear that education and readily available contraception can, and does, contribute greatly to a major reduction in the numbers of women seeking abortions.

Both groups can, and do, agree that this is a desirable end goal. Let us put aside silly religious and political differences regarding the method by which this can come about, use the facts available to us, and base our policy on fact instead of ideological or religious precepts.

A great and necessary post John! This one deserves a double EP....
Oddly enough, education in general, not just about sex, affects the pregnancy rates in young women everywhere. Somehow, the more you learn about everything, the less likely you are to get pregnant without wanting to, thus also cutting abortion rates. Strange, hhmm?