by William Cutrer, M.D., and Sandra Glahn, Th.M.
An October 2002 report released by the Alan Guttmacher Institute showed that the overall abortion rate in the United States declined throughout the 1990s but “rose sharply” for low-income women. The U.S. abortion rate among women of childbearing age fell from 24 abortions per 1,000 women in 1994 to 21 abortions per 1,000 women in 2000–an 11% decrease. However, the abortion rate among women earning less than the federal poverty level rose by 25% during this period, and the abortion rate for women earning less than two times the poverty level–or $34,000 for a family of four–rose by 23%. The study was based on data from more than 10,000 women who sought abortions. The following are among the report’s other findings:
The abortion rate among teens between the ages of 15 and 17 fell by 40% from 24 abortions per 1,000 girls in 1994 to 15 per 1,000 girls in 2000. The decline does not necessarily mean that more teens are carrying pregnancies to term, as the teen pregnancy rate and teen birth rate also decreased throughout the 1990s.
Black and Hispanic women continue to have disproportionately high abortion rates, with blacks and Hispanics accounting for 32% and 20% of abortions, respectively, even though they represent only 14% and 13% of women of childbearing age.
Most women who have abortions (56%) are in their 20s. Two-thirds of women undergoing an abortion have never been married, and 61% have one or more children.
About 88% of women who obtain abortions live in metropolitan areas, and 57% are “economically disadvantaged,” meaning they make less than 200% of the federal poverty level.
More than three-quarters of women undergoing an abortion reported having a religious affiliation–43% of all women identified themselves as Protestant, 27% as Catholic and 8% reported affiliation with other religions.*
Doctors used pills such as RU-486 to perform about 6 percent of abortions in the first several months after the controversial drug was approved in the United State.
In other abortion news, we read the following:
The Washington Times reported that the number of “partial-birth” abortions has tripled in the past four years.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, most states experienced a decrease in abortion providers. There are reportedly one-fourth fewer clinics, hospitals and doctors offering the procedure, according to a national survey. The decline in providers nationally coincided with a similar drop in the rate of abortions–a 17 percent decrease between 1992 and 2000.
The Washington Times reported that nearly 70 percent of Americans say they favor “restoring legal protection for unborn children.”
The debate about abortion is ongoing. Is it a right? A treatment? A last resort? Murder? In our next few columns, we will explore this complex debate. Abortion has divided many groups across the world, in Christendom, and even recently in the U.S. political arena in which party platforms are debated and placed to “win over” the confused electorate.
How can a Christian understand and articulate a consistent Christ-honoring position in a volatile arena in which we hear so much verbiage, see protests, and watch TV reports of abortion providers being killed. Before exploring the issues within the abortion debate itself, we must first address a more fundamental issue: Can we “know” what’s right or wrong, moral or immoral, ethical or not? Clearly people of various faith systems and those with no religious convictions differ in their conclusions about elective abortion. What is our standard of absolute truth—or does such a standard even exist?
The source of absolute truth
The very suggestion that something can be right or wrong goes against post-modern thinking. Today “truth” is an elusive target and many of the brightest, most articulate young men and women have abandoned the concept of absolute truth, having been taught that truth is relative. They believe, “What is true for you is your truth; what is true for me is mine and to think there exists an “absolute truth” is naïve. In the abortion debate, this translates into, “I respect your view that abortion is wrong, but please allow me to differ with you—I think it’s okay.” Can both be right?
This is a remarkable departure from the concept that absolute truth exists and if we can discover it, we can agree to believe it. For the Christian, God is the source of absolute truth, and he has communicated with us through the clear teaching of Scripture. And in the areas of life where the Bible remains silent, scriptural principles guide our understanding. If we cannot agree on the fundamental that there is a right and wrong—a true and false, a good and an evil— then issues such as abortion and the status of the unborn will remain out of reach.
Yet for those who consider the biblical record authoritative, we can establish some foundational moral principles and move consistently to formulate a view on abortion. In the columns to follow we will use the Bible as our guide, assuming absolute truth exists—while also considering the supporting scientific evidence and.
In this series on abortion we’ll look first at when personhood begins. Then we’ll explore cases involving “the life of the mother,” rape and incest. We’ll consider medicines—the abortion pill (RU-486) and even whether there’s a link between the birth control pill and abortion. Finally, we’ll look at post abortion syndrome and encourage a compassionate approach to those who suffer from the emotional pain associated with abortion–pain that is often ignored.
Other stats about abortion:
The following highlights the results of a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of 1,002 adults on issues impacting the abortion debate:
88% of respondents support laws requiring doctors to inform patients of alternatives to abortion before performing the procedure.
78% support a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can undergo an abortion
73% support parental notification laws for women under age 18.
72% support laws requiring women to notify their husbands if they are going to have an abortion.
70% support banning so-called “partial-birth” abortion except in cases to save a woman’s life.
38% favor a constitutional amendment banning abortions in all cases expect to save the life of a woman (Kiely, USA Today, 1/16).
Nearly 70% of Americans support “restoring legal protection for unborn children,” according to a poll conducted last month by Wirthlin Worldwide, the Washington Times reports. In the poll, approximately 1,000 adults were asked, “Are you in favor of restoring legal protection for unborn children,” in light of recent medical advances making it possible to see the body and facial features of the fetus, according to the Times. Approximately 68% of the “randomly surveyed” respondents said that they were “in favor” of such legal protection, while 44% said that they were in “strong agreement,” the Times reports. In addition, 66% said that they were in favor of the appointment of Supreme Court justices “who would uphold laws that restore legal protection to unborn children.”
More than 60% of respondents to a poll conducted by the Pew Research for the People and the Press said they would oppose the Supreme Court completely overturning Roe v. Wade (Associated Press, 1/21/03).