Is There an Opportunity for a Compromise on Abortion?

By Bob Hazard   |   May 31, 2022

An illegally leaked draft opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito suggests that a court majority could invalidate Roe v. Wade. Impassioned women (and men) have hit the streets with protest signs that read: My Body, My Choice; Keep Abortion Safe and Legal, Abortion on Demand Without Apology; Banning Abortions is Racist; Protect Women, Not Fetuses; Overturning Roe v. Wade is Violence. 

Full disclosure, I am an aging four-score and seven, male conservative, who believes strongly in a woman’s right to choose — but with reasonable restrictions. Furthermore, I think there is wisdom in women who assert, “Men should have no say in a woman’s reproductive choices,” the so-called “No Uterus… No Opinion” position. 

U.S. Attitudes Toward Abortion: How Wide is the Divide on Abortion?

In 2021, 59% of U.S. adults felt that abortions should be legal in all or most cases, according to a Pew research poll. A majority of adults believe that a woman’s right to choose should be her right, and only her right. They contend that pro-lifers need to stop trying to control what goes on in women’s lives and wombs. If you don’t like abortion, encourage your female family members not to get one. Or don’t get one yourself. But stop telling others what is best for them. It’s a private decision.

At the same time, the Associated Press found that 66% of U.S. pro-choice adults oppose abortions after 22-24 weeks, the time at which the life of the child is generally viable outside the womb. 

How Common Are Abortions in the United States?

The CDC reports that there were 3,853,472 births recorded in the US in 2017. Guttmacher Institute, the former research arm of Planned Parenthood, claims 862,320 abortions took place in the United States in 2017, the latest year for statistics, down from a peak of 1.6 million abortions reported for the U.S. in 1990. In 2017, roughly 19% of U.S. pregnancies ended in abortion. 

CDC claims that 90% of U.S. abortions are performed during the first trimester. Guttmacher reports that 9% of abortions occur in the second trimester, while only 1% of all abortions in the United States were delayed until the third trimester. 

Support for abortion drops significantly as pregnancy advances: 61% of adults believe abortion should be legal during the first trimester, dropping to only 34% in the second trimester, and plunging to 19% in the third trimester.

An Associated Press/NORC poll in June 2021 found that 87% of U.S. voters support abortion when the woman’s life is in danger, 84% support abortion in the case of rape or incest, and 74% support abortion if the child would be born with extreme physical abnormalities.

Who Has Abortions in the U.S.?

According to CDC, unmarried women account for 86% of all abortions. Women aged 14–19 years account for 9%; women aged 20-24 account for 28%; women aged 25-29 account for 29%; women over 30 account for 35% of abortions. Women who had not aborted in the past accounted for 58% of all abortions; women with one or two prior abortions accounted for 34%, and women with three or more prior abortions accounted for 8%.

Where Can Women Get Abortions in the United States?

In the greater Santa Barbara community neither Cottage Hospital, nor Sansum Clinic, nor most gynecologists perform abortions, except in rare instances when the life of the mother is at risk. Nearly all abortions are referred to the Planned Parenthood offices of California Central Coast. There is only one abortion clinic in the City of Santa Barbara — Planned Parenthood at 518 Garden Street, which administers the abortion pill for up to 10 weeks and in-clinic surgical abortions for up to 16 weeks. If a woman’s pregnancy has passed the 16-week mark, Planned Parenthood will help connect the mother to one of the few late-term abortion clinics in the U.S. In California, nurse midwives and other non-physician medical professionals with the proper training are allowed toperform abortions. California does not require minors to obtain parental consent to receive an abortion, but that right is based on case law and not on any statute. 

Have Medical Abortions Contributed to the Acceptance of Abortions in the First Trimester?

The introduction of the abortion pill has softened attitudes toward abortion in the first trimester. Pregnancy requires the presence of a hormone called progesterone for the fetus to develop normally. Taking a pill called mifepristone stops the woman’s production of progesterone. Taking a 2nd pill called misoprostol within the next 48 hours causes cramping and bleeding, which will empty a woman’s uterus. 

Because medical abortions can be done at home under proper medical direction, many women feel it’s more natural and less invasive than in-clinic surgical procedures. In the U.S., 44% of reported abortions are Medical Abortions while 56% were surgical abortions. The availability of the abortion pill by mail from worldwide pharmacies and medical clinics without a prescription makes it nearly impossible to track abortions in the first trimester.

How Does the Rest of the World Solve the Abortion Question?

The United States is one of only seven countries in the world that allows abortions through all nine months of pregnancy, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute. The other countries are China, North Korea, Vietnam, Canada, the Netherlands, and Singapore. Roe v. Wade contained a 26-week cutoff for abortions, but exceptions for the mother’s “mental distress” allows abortions until childbirth.

72 countries allow for abortion subject to gestational time limits – the most common being the end of the first trimester, or 12 weeks.

There are 24 countries in the world where abortion is completely prohibited. These include Andorra and Malta in Europe; El Salvador and Honduras in Central America; Senegal, Madagascar, and Egypt in Africa; and the Philippines and Laos in Asia. Another 50 countries permit abortions only when the woman’s health is at risk including Poland, Libya, Iran, Indonesia, Venezuela, and Nigeria. 

Can We Learn Anything from How the Swiss Handle Abortions?

When assessing the possibility of compromise, it may be useful to look beyond our own borders to find successful solutions. In Switzerland, for example, abortions are treated as a medical procedure, not a political decision, and are covered under the country’s basic medical insurance plan. Abortion on demand is available during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After that, abortions are available to protect the health or safety of the woman, for medical emergencies, fetal abnormalities, and rape and incest.

95% of abortions in Switzerland take place during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In 2018, only 528 abortions (5%) out of a total of 10,457 abortions were carried out after week 12. Every abortion must be reported to the Public Health Authorities for statistical purposes. 

Under the Swiss Penal Code, an abortion must be performed by a physician, following an in-depth discussion of alternatives with the woman. Any woman under the age of 16 must have an obligatory consultation with a specialist youth counsellor before she can terminate her pregnancy. Swiss law does not require parental consent for minors. The popularity of the Swiss system was confirmed in January 2022, when a referendum to make abortions in the first trimester illegal was defeated by nearly 90% of Swiss voters. 

Bottom Line on Abortion

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortion would not be banned nationwide. Instead, each state and its voters would make their own choice. The alternative is for elected politicians from both red and blue states to do their job, come together, and craft a new federal national abortion law acceptable to a plurality on both sides of the aisle.

A new federal abortion law would require bi-partisan compromise; that is the genius of representative democracy. Extremes like abortions, anytime, everywhere (Extreme Left); or abortions at no time, nowhere (Extreme Right), would be eliminated in a federal compromise. 

Why Does the Swiss Plan Make Sense?

Personally, I favor a new U.S. federal law modeled after the Swiss plan where abortion access and reproductive health services for pregnant women are protected and not criminalized. Both the right of the mother to control her own body and the right of the unborn child when it can live outside of the womb are respected.

Who can object to an enlightened reproductive rights system that received 90% voter approval in 2022; where 95% of abortions take place in the first 12 weeks; and best of all, where nearly one million pregnant women and girls who seek abortions each year are neither stigmatized, nor turned into criminals?  


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