Making Abortion Illegal Does NOT Save Lives -- So Mike Pence Needs To STFU

by Lisa Sadikman
Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ/Wikimedia Commons

Make no mistake: when Mike Pence, our vehemently anti-choice vice president, says he wants to “restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law,” he is not talking about the sanctity of women’s lives. In fact, in his quest to eradicate our right to safe abortions, he is willing to put our lives on the line.

In a recent speech to the Susan B. Anthony List and Life Issues Institute, an anti-abortion group, Pence said he was pleased to announce that, “…life is winning in America once again.” He then highlighted the “great progress” this current administration has made towards limiting legal abortion in the U.S. and overseas. He pointed out that under the reinstated Mexico City Policy, the U.S. no longer funds organizations that provide abortions abroad and told the crowd how proud he was of his tie-breaking vote to pass a bill that allows states to defund Planned Parenthood.

Wait, I’m confused: how can an administration that continuously pummels our right to access safe, affordable medical care also claim to hold life sacred? How can a movement that calls itself “pro-life” so blatantly disregard the lives, health and physical and emotional wellbeing of women not only in America, but also worldwide?

This rhetoric is nothing new coming from our vice president, a man considered one of the most anti-abortion Republicans in Washington. What’s alarming is the way he clearly conveys that banning abortion is somehow tantamount to holding life sacred. It’s not only shocking, but also flagrantly false.

Making abortion illegal will not prevent women from seeking abortions. As history shows us, it simply means it will no longer be a safe procedure for the hundreds of thousands of women who undergo abortions each year.

According to a report in the Guttmacher Policy Review, in 1930, illegal abortion accounted for the death of 2,700 women or 18% of all maternal deaths recorded that year. Fast-forward to the 1950s and 60s, and not much had changed. During those two decades, an estimated 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal abortions were reported (undoubtedly many more occurred) and accounted for 17% of all maternal deaths.

In addition to dying, women often endured septic shock and infection from botched abortions. It’s no surprise that wealthier women with access to private doctors who were willing to perform an abortion often fared better than poor and minority women who could not afford safer procedures, albeit still illegal. No doubt this would be the case again today should abortion be banned.

According to the most recent CDC abortion surveillance report, more than 650,000 women had abortions in 2014. Does the vice president truly believe that banning abortion will stop hundreds of thousands of women from exercising their right to choose what happens to their bodies? It doesn’t take a stable genius to understand that no such thing will happen. Outlawing abortion will simply force women to undergo risky, illegal procedures once again.

Life definitely is not winning in this scenario.

Let’s talk about the women who, given the risk to their own lives, perhaps would not choose illegal abortion. Before you consider that a win, Mr. Pence, realize that some of those children will be born into poverty or abusive environments. They will be born to women who do not feel capable of raising them or simply don’t want to. There’s always adoption, you say? Giving a child up for adoption has its own psychological consequences and requires a woman to carry a pregnancy to term. What if that pregnancy is a result of incest or rape? What if a woman doesn’t want anyone, like her parents or husband, to know she’s pregnant? Carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term is stressful for any number of reasons. Is a woman’s mental health not also sacrosanct?

And when these babies arrive, what kind of healthcare will they receive to nurture their sacred lives? Let’s not forget that the Republican party recently tried to strong arm the Democrats into passing heavily partisan legislation by attaching desperately needed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to the same bill. That’s right: Pence and the Republicans were more than happy to use healthcare coverage for children of low-income families as leverage when it came to pushing their agenda. In case you didn’t know, CHIP also covers care for pregnant women in some states.

Oh, the hypocrisy.

If the vice president really cared about the sanctity of life, he and his party would push for better access to birth control and more comprehensive sex education in schools. Studies show that when people have access to contraceptives, the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions go down.

Unfortunately our vice president doesn’t see it this way. Even though the abortion rate in the U.S. is at it’s lowest since the Roe v. Wade decision made it legal in 1973, he and the anti-choice movement are hell bent on flinging us back to the dark and dangerous age of kitchen table abortions. This is not by any stretch of the imagination the way to protect human life.

The numbers don’t lie: making abortion illegal literally kills women. It will not “restore the sanctity of life” but instead cause physical and mental damage and death for thousands of women. Be careful what you say and how you say it, Mr. Vice President. Women’s lives are sacred too, and we will not tolerate anyone who says otherwise.

In case you missed the memo, time’s up.