Pro-life policy: the difference between life and death

Becoming cynical about politics is easy. It can seem dubious whether our votes, our letters and our calls to representatives make a difference. It can get tedious when we're accused, ad nauseam, of waging a "war on women" simply by advocating for basic rights for the most vulnerable of our human family.


Compared to the more obvious and immediate life-saving results of pregnancy centers’ and sidewalk counselors’, vital work at the individual level, the societal effect of political and legislative efforts are often harder to readily identify.

But the fact is, when we let these frustrations keep us from getting involved in the political and legislative arenas, lives are lost. That’s why a study, recently highlighted by Dr. Michael J. New of the University of Michigan, that sought to quantify the effects of North Carolina’s state abortion policy caught my eye. From 1980-1995, NC had a state abortion fund for low-income mothers. Occasionally, the fund ran out of money. A 1999 study by Cook et al. found that when this occurred, there was a significant decrease in the abortion rate and, months later, an increase in the birth rate. Overall, the authors conclude that 37% of women who would otherwise have had an abortion carried their child to term when funding was not available. The authors calculate that for a given year (specifically, 1989) where abortion funding was available, 1524 additional children were aborted. Cook et al. estimate an average of 108 black babies and 19 white babies, who otherwise would have lived, were aborted each month simply because state funding covered their deaths. As 1989 happens to be the year I was born, I can’t help but think of those 1524 peers of mine whom we will never know – whose chances at life were taken because the state, and its taxpayers, were willing to fund their deaths. Multiply that over the years and think about how many more are missing simply because of a state funding policy. As an aside, the authors have a rather different take on these statistics. They offer a chilling insight into the perspective of those who promote taxpayer-funded abortion (hint: it’s not about “women’s health” as the bumper stickers proclaim). They coldly imply that it would have been worthwhile for the state to provide the $527 to abort each of those “unwanted” children to avoid the higher cost of “supporting additional children on the welfare roles.” It seems that the cost of a human life is rather low in their eyes. While this particular study helped bring the facts and figures a little closer to home, numerous others – including Michael New’s latest article published this summer – have further shown the life-saving impact of pro-life policies. Just over a year ago, the North Carolina legislature passed the 2013 Health and Safety Law Changes, which Governor Pat McCrory signed into law. This legislation, in addition to banning sex-selection and dangerous webcam abortions, prevented the expansion of taxpayer-funded abortion in our state by opting North Carolina out of abortion in the federal exchange and city and county employee health plans. Lives will be saved because of this law, though we may never have a convenient count of just how many. As much we celebrate the life-saving impact of our efforts, however, we must remain vigilant. We cannot hope to maintain pro-life policies, nor pass other sorely needed measures, unless we vote for life this coming November and redouble our efforts to promote life-saving legislation. Your efforts matter, and their lives are worth it.

Referenced Studies:

Cook, Philip J., Allan Parnell, Michael Moore, and Deanna Pagnini. 1999. “The Effects of Short Term Variation in Abortion Funding on Pregnancy Outcomes.” Journal of Health Economics 18(2): 241–57.

New, Michael J. 2014. “Analyzing the Impace of U.S. Antiabortion Legislation in the Post-Casey Era.” State Politics & Policy Quarterly 14(3) 228 –268.