Work to make abortion rare

After years of decline, the abortion rate in the United States is increasing.

This disturbing news, reported earlier this month by the Guttmacher Institute, represents a failure of social policy on many fronts.

The 1 percent increase since the last survey was conducted six years ago translates into 1.2 million abortions annually in the United States. No one -- “pro-choice” or “pro-life” -- should welcome the trend.

Ninety thousand of these abortions occur annually in New York City, which means that more than 40 percent (about twice the national average) of the pregnancies in that jurisdiction result in women choosing to terminate their pregnancies. The primary reason women choose to end their pregnancies is economic -- the $500 or so one-time cost of an abortion is far cheaper than the lifetime expense of raising and caring for a child. The current “great recession” and the revocation of the social safety net instituted as a result of “welfare reform” are likely contributing factors.

Earlier this month, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, along with Jewish and Protestant leaders, reiterated the church’s commitment to assist women facing crisis pregnancies.

Said Dolan, “A quarter century ago, Cardinal John O’Connor publicly states: ‘Any woman who is pregnant and in need can come to the church and we will help you,’ a pledge Cardinal Egan, and now I, reaffirm.”

Dolan continued, “Through our Catholic charities, our adoption services, our lobbying on behalf of pregnant women and mothers of infants, our support for life-giving alternatives to the decision all call tragic -- abortion -- in our education of youth for healthy, responsible, virtuous sexual behavior, our health care -- we have done our best to keep that promise.”

Further, and quite significantly, Dolan told a Jan. 6 news conference that it is unlikely that lawmakers in the Empire State will see fit anytime soon to alter the state’s permissive abortion statutes.

The archbishop is correct. Even in the unlikely event that the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision establishing abortion rights at the federal level, New York (and many other states) would continue to allow women to terminate their pregnancies.

But the law, despite its importance, is not the final work in our society. There are other means available -- the economic and social assistance provided by Catholic and other welfare organizations were highlighted by Dolan -- to promote life over abortion.

It is possible that sometime in the future a consensus will exist against abortion that will be reflected in law. But that consensus, if it is to occur, will take many years to develop. Such a change would represent a cultural shift of enormous proportions. It can only happen if our communities assist women facing crisis pregnancies to cope with the real burdens, as well as the many blessings, a child represents.

In the meantime, as the archbishop urged, we must work to “make abortion rare.” That is a goal all people of goodwill share.

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