ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–The topic of abortion has become front and center for conservatives in the presidential election, with questions for both candidates about the issue now on the table.
However, one question that remains unanswered is why legislators have not been more proactive in seeking to stem the tide of abortion in the United States.
In the 35 years since Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the nation — the debate over abortion has shifted.
In the early days of the abortion battle, liberals insisted that the baby in the womb was anything but a developing human being — a “blob of tissue” they said. However, with advances in medical technology even the most ardent proponents of abortion rights now admit that the baby in the womb is indeed human, and looks like one, too.
The debate now centers on personhood. The question pro-choicers currently pose is: “When does the fetus actually become a person?” Of course, they maintain the answer is not until birth, or even sometime afterward. The most radical of the pro-abortion community, like Princeton professor Peter Singer, believe the baby doesn’t achieve personhood until weeks after birth.
Pro-choicers have taken a new approach to abortion. In order to sway the masses that abortion should remain legal, they have taken a more measured approach toward their public pronouncements in support of the procedure. Now some supporters of abortion say that abortion is indeed a tragedy. However, they maintain that because unplanned pregnancies still occur to women in difficult circumstances, abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.”
It is time for pro-life legislators to force their pro-choice colleagues to put their legislation where their mouths are. If they are indeed serious about making abortion rare, then call them on it. How? In the past if liberals didn’t like a practice or behavior, they have employed a systematic approach to curtail it –- demonize it, tax it, regulate it.
Take cigarette smoking, for instance. Liberals and other legislators rarely have attempted to make cigarettes illegal. However, for decades they have highlighted every negative aspect possible of smoking. They have also taxed tobacco products at a high rate and sought to tightly regulate them.
First, they educated people to all the dangers and ills of smoking — cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, circulatory disease, birth defects (which include mental and physical disability) and emphysema.
As a result of the education programs aimed against smoking, many communities and states have begun to ban smoking from public places –- even privately owned businesses.
The second prong employed in the war on smoking was taxation. Tobacco is one of the more heavily taxed legal products on the market. The average tax on a pack of cigarettes is $1.18, according to the Associated Press (New York has the highest tax per pack at $2.75). At 20 cigarettes per pack that is almost 5.9 cents per cancer stick.
The goal of high taxation is to make the product so expensive, people will no longer be able to afford to smoke and thus will change their behavior.
While education and taxation have helped reduce smoking in the U.S., regulation has also played a part. There are not many legal products on the market as heavily regulated as cigarettes. Tobacco products are restricted as to where they can advertize, with nothing allowed via the airwaves. Federal law also requires warning labels on cigarette packs. Additionally, no one under 18 is legally permitted to purchase cigarettes.
Has the media campaign, combined with taxation and regulation worked? Yes. In the 1970s, when legislators began to go after tobacco products in earnest, approximately 40 percent of Americans smoked. Today the figure is estimated to be around 21 percent.
If advocates of abortion rights are serious about making the practice rare, perhaps it is time to force them to highlight all the negative aspects and possible ills associated with abortion. If they really want to make abortion rare, then they should help educate women on post-abortion syndrome and the abortion-breast cancer link.
Pro-choice legislators say they want abortion to be rare, so let them propose taxes on the clinics that perform the procedure. If the procedure becomes expensive, perhaps some women will chose other alternative to abortion.
Pro-life legislators should insist that abortion be heavily regulated. Restrict advertising for abortion providers and insist that women seeking abortions be given a warning concerning the possible negative consequences of abortion. Additionally, establish a federally mandated minimum age of 18 for abortions.
While I look forward to the day that Roe v. Wade is a sad footnote in history, that day is still somewhere in the future. Until then, our pro-life legislators should be more proactive on their pro-choice colleagues concerning their desire for abortion to be “rare.” Ask them to demonize it, tax it, and regulate it the same way they do cigarettes. And if pro-choice don’t, their hypocrisy will be all too apparent.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each week in Baptist Press, is editor of the Baptist Message, the newspaper of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, which is online at baptistmessage.com.