Embedded in the protracted abortion debate are many existing conditions and facts that are often omitted or distorted, along with blatant hypocrisy when it comes to promoting and protecting the wellbeing of millions of women and children already among us.
Whether you take to the street in protest, seethe in anger or shudder silently in fear, there are big elephants in the nation’s room that cannot be ignored.
We need to shine a light on the many facts that get lost or misrepresented in the current debate on whether the nearly 50-year-old landmark Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortions, should be allowed to stand.
One would think that abortions have been constantly on the rise since the Roe v. Wade decision. But according to an NPR fact-check report, the current rate of abortion is lower now than it was in 1973 when the decision was made.
In fact, the rate of abortion has been on a fairly steady decline, with the highest rate occurring in1980.
Another misrepresentation is the impression that the decision to have or not to have an abortion is a situation that only low-income women or women of color confront.
According to the Center for Disease Control, of the women receiving abortions in 2018, nearly 39% were white women, 34% were Black women and 20% for Hispanic women.
What is misleading about those numbers is that the rate of abortion among middle class and well-to-do women is not included since they access abortion services through their private physicians, not Planned Parenthood or other public health providers where statistics are reported.
Therefore, there is a percentage of women who get abortions that is unknown.
Despite a majority of Americans, nearly 60%, believing abortions should be legal, the issue is still being fought in court, at the ballot box and in state legislatures.
But, why? And why does the issue seem to loom larger today than in recent decades?
Could it be that the issue of abortion has also fallen victim to the unprecedented partisan political divide that has this nation in its grip?
Should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, it will be a decision that 70% of Americans disagree with, according to a compilation of data collected by the Pew Research Center.
The Supreme Court is not supposed to be influenced by public opinion polls and politics. But is that true?
What about the impact of religion on the abortion issue? The facts show that the majority of women who get abortions have some religious affiliation.
Irrespective of the reasons driving the changes in laws and public policies when it comes to our children, born or unborn, there are glaring contradictions in the concern for the overall health and well-being of expectant mothers and the children.
You need not look very far to see the hypocrisy that is unavoidable and laid bare.
Millions of women and girls who find themselves pregnant and want to have their babies often cannot access good prenatal care. The infant mortality rate is still unacceptably high in the United States among Blacks and low-income women.
What about the millions of children living in poverty?
As of 2019, the most recent year where Census data is available, more than 10 million (1 in 7) children live in poverty. That number has likely increased since the COVID pandemic. It is also true that Black and low-income children are most affected.
Access to quality child care, adequate health care services, early education and protection from neglect and child abuse remain major challenges for too many of the nation’s children.
Where is rage, the outcry, the demonstrations and marching in the streets for the millions of expectant mothers and children who are struggling and suffering among us?
The United States ranks 39th among nations when it comes to the overall health and well-being of its children.
Are their lives less valuable, less precious than the unborn?
Where is the comparable outrage?
When it comes to providing and protecting the reproductive health of women, can there really be a restrictive federal or state law or policy that should be applied to all? Should a woman be forced to give birth irrespective of how that child was conceived, irrespective of the mother’s health status or risk?
Despite the issue of whether a woman has a right to choose to become a mother, what kind of support is readily available for that mother to successfully provide that child a good quality of life?
Many of the states that would force a woman to have a child are the same states that are fighting Medicaid expansion.
Resolving the issue of whether abortion should or should not be allowed is not cut and dry, nor can the issue be easily solved with restrictive, punitive policies drenched in political and partisan biases.
If the Supreme Court decides to declare Roe v. Wade unconstitutional and leave it up to each state to decide its own policies about abortion, the other important issues regarding the quality of life for women and children in this country may never get the attention, support and resources they need.
We need not let misinformation and hypocrisy throw us back to the time of the jurist Judge Alito quotes in his leaked Supreme Court opinion, 17th century Sir Matthew Hale, whose writings and reasonings have influenced the courts and caused disrespect, injustice and harm toward women for hundreds of years.
And by default, our children.
What should be just as important is the care and wellbeing of women and children already here. When will that become a top priority, defended and promoted with equal fervor as that for the unborn?
This commentary by Janice Ellis is published from The Missouri Independent through a Creative Commons license.