Forty years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, abortion has become, in one sense, a normal part of many women’s lives: nearly one in three American women will have an abortion at some point in her lifetime. And of those who abort, half will have at least one more abortion.
But in another sense, abortion is still very abnormal. Despite that more than one million abortions are committed each year, most Americans don’t consider abortion to be a “normal” part of healthcare. And most don’t consider it moral or natural.
The abortion-rights movement has spent the last 40 years trying to “normalize” abortion, and it is only now acknowledging the failure of those efforts.
But don’t take my word for it. Abortion rights leaders are making my case. “In general, the pro-choice movement leaves people with the feeling that we don’t see these things as complex because the answer is almost always, ‘Well it’s a woman’s decision,’” Francis Kissling, formerly head of Catholic for a Free Choice, recently told Time magazine.
“When people hear us say ‘abortion is just another medical procedure,’ they react with shock. Abortion is not like having your tooth pulled or having your appendix out. It involves the termination of an early form of human life. That deserves some gravitas.”
This is a startling admission coming from one of the abortion-rights movement’s most high-profile leaders.
For decades, abortion advocates have labored to portray abortion as normal. They lobbied Hollywood script writers to have abortion depicted sympathetically on TV shows.
They constructed websites with names like “I’mNotSorry.net” and introduced “I Had an Abortion” T-shirts that encouraged women to, as one abortion activist put it, “own-up” to their abortions. The abortion industry continues to do all it can to mainstream abortion into medical school training, even to the point of forcing medical professionals to perform them.
Most recently, abortion advocates worked alongside pro-abortion Democrats to remove the word “rare” from the Democratic Party’s platform calling for abortion to be “safe” and “legal.” The notion that abortion should be rare stigmatizes the procedure, they claimed.
But “normalization” belies the experiences of millions of women—especially those who suffer physical and emotional trauma post-abortion.
Hundreds of state laws have been enacted that remind people that abortion is anything but normal. Some require ultrasounds before an abortion, while others mandate that abortionists inform women of the risks of abortion. Still others require that women seeking abortions be told that the procedure involves the killing of a whole, separate, unique living human being.
There are laws that outlaw abortions after unborn babies can feel pain, laws that require that women wait 24 or 48 hours before an abortion and laws that require abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Abortion advocates claim pro-life laws humiliate, degrade and shame women. But they mainly act as a prick to the consciences of those considering abortion. They are a reminder that abortion is serious business and that the decision to abort should not be taken lightly.
Most Americans get it. A new Pew Research Center poll finds that only 13 percent of Americans believe abortion is “morally acceptable.” That includes just 10 percent of women and just 17 percent of Democrats.
Amazingly, just 17 percent of respondents who think Roe should not be overturned also believe abortion is “morally acceptable.” That means that the overwhelming majority of Americans who support abortion-on-demand also believe abortion is immoral.
A 2009 poll by The Polling Company found that of adults who knew a woman who had had an abortion, 55 percent said her abortion was a negative experience, while just 33 percent said it was positive. A majority of respondents (53 percent) said abortion is almost always a bad thing for women; 13 percent said it is almost always a good thing.
The increasingly obvious humanity of the unborn child has had an effect on medical professionals. The number of doctors willing to train in and perform abortions has dropped by half in recent years, as medical professionals increasingly refuse to be a part of the marginalized specialty.
There are signs that the abortion industry is starting to understand its problem. Planned Parenthood has a new messaging campaign that moves away from the language of choice, because, as Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards put it, abortion is “a complicated topic and one in which labels don’t reflect the complexity.”
Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens even conceded that the word “’choice’…sounds frivolous.” These concessions are no doubt a result of recent polls showing more Americans identifying as “pro-life” than as “pro-choice.”
Not surprisingly, even as the abortion movement talks about adopting new euphemisms, it’s making clear that it will not alter its hardline stance against efforts to reduce abortion. Laguens told BuzzFeed that Planned Parenthood won’t adopt language about making abortion “rare” because it sounds too judgmental.
Incidentally, Planned Parenthood recently announced that it performed 334,000 abortions in 2011, up from recent years. That’s one abortion every 94 seconds, and that’s more than $150 million in revenue from abortions.
The abortion industry can try to improve its “messaging” all it wants. But unless abortion advocates change their devotion to abortion-on-demand, the only message Americans will receive is that the abortion industry is only really interested in improving its bottom line at the expense of the most defenseless among us.
Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.