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Rewriting the Abortion Narrative

Stan Guthrie | Author | Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rewriting the Abortion Narrative

Thirty-nine years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand across the 50 states, we are supposed to be hopelessly divided as a people. There have been 50 million legal abortions since Roe v. Wade in 1973, and, with no consensus on the sanctity of human life, there may be 50 million more in the next four decades. That’s the narrative, anyway.

The only problem is, it’s a little out of date. According to Gallup, in eight of the last 11 years, a majority of Americans has held abortion to be “morally wrong.” In the latest survey, for example, 51 percent of respondents used this term, which is a sanitized synonym for older nomenclature, such as “immoral,” “evil,” or even “sinful.”

Only 39 percent, however, said that abortion is “morally acceptable” — please note that the term they agreed with is “morally acceptable,” not “morally good.” Even supporters of abortion can’t bring themselves to go beyond calling it a necessary evil.

And this moral disapproval of abortion is evident across the political spectrum. Hillary Clinton, a staunch advocate of legal abortion, called it “a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women.” According to a 2010 Gallup survey, fully 74 percent of Republicans see abortion as immoral. This is hardly a surprise, but among independents, who are supposed to be so moderate on social issues, it’s 61 percent. Only among Democrats do we see a group that seems to be hopelessly divided about abortion. Gallup says that an amazing 49 percent of members of the “pro-choice” political party agree that abortion is, using an old term, sinful. That’s a virtual dead heat with those who don’t.

So we need to discard the narrative about a nation hopelessly divided over abortion. The divide over the morality of this “procedure” is strictly within the Democratic Party. Everywhere else, we have reached a clear consensus: Abortion is wrong.

True, we are still at odds over the legality of abortion. Gallup said last year that 47 percent of Americans called themselves pro-choice while 47 percent were pro-life. This is down from the 51 percent who called themselves pro-life and just 42 percent who called themselves pro-choice between 2009 and 2010.

Responding to this shift, one pro-life commentator noted, “The poll seems to suggest that Americans are buying into abortion provider Planned Parenthood’s supposed mission of empowering women, men and teens through reproductive and sexual health services.”

However, the facts tucked inside Planned Parenthood’s latest annual report belie this narrative, too. According to the document, Planned Parenthood:

  • Performed 329,445 abortions, accounting for 91 percent of its “services” in 2009-2010;
  • Performed 31,098 prenatal services, or 8.6 percent of services rendered;
  • Made 841 adoption referrals (one for every 391 abortions performed), or 0.2 percent of the total.

Clearly, the narrative that Planned Parenthood, which has been and easily remains the nation’s largest abortion provider, provides a well-rounded menu of “reproductive services” also needs major tweaking. And it is worth noting that Planned Parenthood’s commitment to offering a full range of options to its clients appears to be on the wane.

In 2008, the organization made 2,405 adoption referrals, far more than the current 841. Obviously, if you want to help women with services other than “pregnancy termination,” Planned Parenthood is not a good choice.

So if solid majorities of Americans across the political spectrum find abortion to be morally objectionable, and if far and away Planned Parenthood’s major emphasis is providing abortions, then Planned Parenthood doesn’t deserve our trust, much less our money. Even if 47 percent of Americans really are pro-choice, something less than that would be pro-funding. People may find abortion morally permissible, but that doesn’t mean they want to foot the bill. So why is a solid majority of Americans both morally opposed to abortion and not in favor of paying for it forced to subsidize an organization whose raison d’être is to provide abortions?

Planned Parenthood is not exactly starving for money, either. Its annual report admits that both the organization’s annual budget and total assets topped $1 billion. President Cecile Richards makes nearly $400,000 annually. So why does this organization receive a full 46 percent of its funding from taxpayers — $487 million? Planned Parenthood brought in $18.5 million more than it spent — a pretty good margin, considering the state of the economy.

Yet in one of his first official acts, in 2009 President Obama signed an executive order restoring federal funding to international groups that provide abortion — including Planned Parenthood. Such misuse of taxpayer funds by the federal government, which is now $15 trillion in debt and which borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends, is simply unacceptable, morally and financially.

With the nation experiencing an actual decline in the number of young people, it’s time for America to rewrite the abortion narrative.

Stan Guthrie, a Christianity Today editor at large, is author of All That Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us and coauthor of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Stan blogs at http://stanguthrie.com/blog.

Publication date: January 12, 2012