Tragic: U.S. passed 47 million mark for abortions in 2005
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--In what can only be described as tragic, the United States likely experienced its 47 millionth legal abortion at some point in 2005, more than three decades after the Supreme Court issued its infamous 1973 Roe. v. Wade decision legalizing the killing of the unborn.
The statistic is based on data since 1973 gathered by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute and on estimates by the National Right to Life Committee. In the first full year of abortion legalization nationwide (1974), Guttmacher counted 898,600 abortions. That number reached a peak of 1,608,600 in 1990, before falling to 1,293,000 in 2002.
Since 1975, the United States has witnessed more than 1 million abortions each year. Unless the nation's laws are changed, the number of abortions post-Roe will pass 50 million in 2008.
"It's an unspeakable tragedy," Randall K. O'Bannon, director of education and research at National Right to Life, told Baptist Press. "That [47 million] is higher than the population of some countries. That would be wiping out a number of whole states. The world was appropriately horrified and shocked when we lost about a couple thousand people on Sept. 11.... What we're talking about here is that sort of loss multiplied dramatically."
Guttmacher compiles data on abortions by contacting abortion clinics, and its latest data is from 2002 (1,293,000). The 47 million figure is based on Guttmacher data from 1973 though 2002, and on the 2002 count remaining relatively steady through 2005. By including a 3 percent underreport that Guttmacher estimates it misses, the figure of 47 million is derived.
"Our society needs to put in context the enormous amount of loss that we've suffered -- the enormous amount of intelligence, the enormous amount of creativity, the enormous amount of productivity," O'Bannon said, referring to the millions of lives lost since Roe.
Polls show that Americans have mixed views about abortion. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll from January showed that 53 percent of Americans consider themselves pro-choice, 42 percent pro-life. In addition, a 2005 CBS News poll showed that 60 percent of Americans believe Roe v. Wade was a "good thing."
But when Americans are asked about specific details of abortion, poll results change dramatically.
In a January CBS News poll, 55 percent of U.S. adults said abortion should either never be legal or be legal only in instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. (Seventeen percent said it should be legal only to save the mother's life, 33 percent said it should be legal only in cases of rape, incest and to save the mother's life and 5 percent said it should never be legal.) Fifteen percent said there should be "greater restrictions," and 27 percent said it should be legal in all cases.
"I think that they're becoming increasingly uncomfortable with abortion," O'Bannon said of Americans. "I think, though, that there's a great deal of ignorance out there. The partial-birth abortion campaign was very significant in the fact that it exposed just exactly what abortion is to a lot of people who thought of it in terms of some isolated issue. They began to see that what pro-lifers said about abortion stopping a beating heart was in fact true.
"However, I still think they are not aware of the numbers of abortions that occur, and they're certainly not aware of the reasons that they occur."
According to a 2004 study by Guttmacher, only 1 percent of women said their abortion was the consequence of rape, and less than 1 percent cited incest. Eighty-six percent said they were having an abortion for the sake of convenience -- either they weren't ready for a child (25 percent), they said they couldn't afford to have one (23 percent), they didn't want any more children (19 percent), they didn't want to be a single mother or had relationship problems (8 percent), they said they were too young to have a child (7 percent) or they believed a child would interfere with their education or career (4 percent).
"In those circumstances, most Americans say, 'No, they don't believe that that is a sufficient reason to have an abortion,'" O'Bannon said. "What they are not aware of is that around nine out of 10 abortions are in fact done for those reasons."
Pro-lifers gained a lot of public relations ground during the debate over partial-birth abortion in the 1990s. They sought to ban a late-term procedure in which the doctor delivers a second or third-term baby, feet first, until only the head is left in the birth canal. The base of the infant’s skull is then pierced with surgical scissors and the brain is suctioned out. One nurse who witnessed the procedure testified as to seeing a "baby's little fingers ... clasping and unclasping, and his little feet ... kicking" before it was killed.
Pro-lifers, O'Bannon said, can win the debate over abortion.
"[But] it will only happen if people continue to make the case for the unborn child, and if pro-lifers and Christians make it clear that they care deeply about both the mother and the child and are willing to commit the time and the resources and the energy to being able not just to say those words but to make that a reality."