It's been 38 years since my freshman religion class pondered and examined the legislation Colorado passed in April 1967 to legalize abortion. California followed suit later that spring, and other states followed during the several years that preceded the Supreme Court decision of January 1973, Roe v. Wade.
In these intervening years few issues have precipitated more emotion and division among families, churches and political parties -- locally, statewide and nationally -- than abortion, which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as "fatally premature expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the womb."
Legalized yet forever disputed, always facing the appeal to "choose life." For any woman this is an anguished decision, indeed.
While the Bush administration has succeeded in the confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice to pursue its agenda to overturn Roe v. Wade, citizens are mindful that there is much more that all can do to reduce the number of abortions, legal or illegal.
Last October Glen Stassen, Ph.D., and Gary Krane, Ph.D., promulgated their research essay on increasing numbers of abortions in this country, "Abortions Rise Under Bush." They cited widespread declining income and job losses of women and their male partners, along with lack of health insurance, as largely contributing to this increase in abortions as recently as 2002 -- the most recent year that data had been available, and from just 16 states.
The research team at Factcheck.org, using available data provided by the Allan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), disputed the findings of Stassen and Krane last May 25 (www.factcheck.org). They reported that the Allan Guttmacher Institute estimated that in 43 states abortions declined slightly. Dr. Stassen responded in June that this small estimated decrease of abortions, less than 1% in 2002, given the inconsistencies of collecting these numbers as some states don't report them, is certainly within the statistical margin of error.
From the highest number in 1990 of 1.6 million abortions, states had reported declines of 3.4% per year from 1992-1996; between 1996 and 2000, decline was 1.2%. Refer again to the AGI link on the Factcheck story for the graph demonstrating this data.
The projected number of abortions, legal or illegal, will continue to be staggering. One million per year? Before Roe v. Wade, the Philadelphia Catholic Standard estimated 1.5 million per year, cited by Dr. Stassen.
The US Census Bureau's annual report, released Aug. 30, revealed discouraging data on declining income and health insurance coverage and increasing poverty. While our nation's residents in poverty increased for the fourth year in a row (to 37 million) and numbers of Americans without health insurance also increased to 45.8 million, the bureau reports that family incomes failed to increase for the fifth straight year.
In the aftermath of two natural catastrophes along our Gulf Coast, Congress has endorsed rebuilding funding while also deliberating the large-scale slashing of health and welfare funding for the poor and needy, proposing to cut $35 billion from Medicaid and food stamps. This figure represents one-sixth of the funding of our president's discretionary war in Iraq.
Local health centers, such as the Tri-State Community Health Center in Dubuque, Iowa, also are victims of congressional budget cuts.
The Bush administration and Congress have deemed tax cuts for the wealthy as sacrosanct; these are not to be affected for their friends, those to whom the president jokingly refers as "the haves and have-mores."
While private agencies such as Birthright, Catholic Charities, Hillcrest Family Services and Lutheran Social Services, among others, provide needed financial and emotional assistance for mothers, they lack by far the ability to marshal the resources necessary to combat the large-scale abortion habits that our country has maintained.
In his recent treatise, "Reaffirming My Op Ed Article that Pro-life means 'Pay Attention to Economic Justice,'" Dr. Stassen advocates a "motherhood mandate" for health insurance, accessible clinics, living minimum wage, lengthened parental leave with pay and other supports.
Democrats for Life (www.democratsforlife.org), a national network with state chapters, including Iowa, proposes the "95-10 Initiative," policies aimed at reducing abortions by 95% in the next 10 years.
All of us concerned about the numbers of abortions should be more prone to fund the health and welfare "programs of social uplift" that Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned and urged, coincidentally, that same April of 1967.
Bill Cullen of Dubuque, Iowa, is a member of Democrats for Life and Teamsters Local 421. This originally appeared in the Dubuque, Iowa, Telegraph Herald.