Informed choice and abortion

Cal Thomas

1/26/2004 12:00:00 AM - Cal Thomas

The 31st anniversary of Roe vs. Wade last week was played out with familiar theatrics. "Thousands" marched against abortion in the cold streets of Washington. In the evening, believers in the morally obtuse cult of "choice" chose a warm hotel ballroom in which to celebrate their success in reducing a baby to a meaningless blob with no intrinsic value.

There are hopeful signs that the pro-life movement is starting to win the abortion war that has divided the country for more than three decades. The number of abortions in America declined from about 1.03 million in 1992 to 854,000 in 2000, a reduction of more than 17 percent. The drop is due to a number of factors, including thousands of centers that offer material, spiritual and medical help and information to women who experience unplanned pregnancies, an improved economy and state legislation that requires women to receive more information than they have been getting before an abortion can be performed.

It is this last development that has created a large window of opportunity for the pro-life movement. "Choice" presupposes access to information so that people know what it is they are choosing. We have truth-in-labeling and lending laws that require food manufacturers and financial institutions to disclose the contents of what they are selling (be it food or a loan). Laws also require auto dealers to put informational stickers on the cars they sell. But in still too many instances, a woman can get an abortion with fewer informational requirements than for any other surgical procedure.

A new study suggests that information may be the key to reducing the number of abortions. Many women testify following an abortion that they would have made a different choice had they been presented with more information. Taking data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the HeritageFoundation concludes that states that have adopted "informed consent" laws influenced the decline in the number of abortions performed in America during the 1990s.

The Heritage analysis, by Michael J. New, Ph.D., found that in 1992 virtually no states were enforcing informed consent laws. By 2000, 27 states had informed consent laws in place. In 1992, no states banned or restricted "partial-birth" abortions. By 2000, 12 states had bans or restrictions on the procedure. In 1992, 20 states were enforcing parental involvement statutes. By 2000, 32 states enforced such laws.

Because most women who regret having had abortions say they would have made a different choice if they had been given more information, state legislatures and Congress should be focusing on providing that information. From requirements that the pregnant woman see a sonogram picture of what she is about to abort, to information about alternatives, places to live and free baby clothes, furniture and counseling, laws should give women at least as much information as that required in the supermarket, the bank and the automobile showroom.

Politically, this is a win-win for everyone except those who want to keep women ignorant. No one is taking away "a woman's right to choose." The woman is simply receiving additional information so that her choice will be fully informed. To those who claim such legislation implies women are ignorant and can't be trusted, the reply should be, "Fine, let's remove labels from bottles, packages and cans; let's not require banks to provide women with information about loans; and let's take those stickers off the windows of new and used cars. Women are smart enough to figure out these things on their own."

The Heritage analysis also reveals that pro-life candidates made considerable and lasting gains in state legislatures during the 1990s. Informed consent laws are the ticket to even greater gains at the state and federal levels. Abortion cannot and will not continue as it has because it is anti-human. To celebrate the horrible 1973 judicial decision that has produced a baby holocaust is to divorce ourselves from what our eyes can see and our ears can hear if they are given a chance.

Opposing informed consent laws makes the "pro-choicers" censors, a position that will drain away political support. Proposing and supporting more information for women will be good for women and the harvest of new life that will result.