by D.J. McGuire
For millions of Republican voters, the first, last, and only reason for supporting the Republican Party of Donald Trump is the abortion issue. As someone who shares their desire to save pre-born children from untimely death, I humbly submit to them that in choosing to support Trump and his party, they are making a mistake – for it is Joe Biden, not Trump, who is more likely to enact policies that will save more children from dying before they are born.
The assumption driving pro-lifers to the Republican Party of Donald Trump is this: a re-elected Trump will lead to a dramatic reduction in abortion via the reversal of Casey v. Planned Parenthood (the successor to Roe v Wade). That assumption fails on two fronts. The first is the unlikelihood of a reversal at all. The second is the minimal effect a reversal would have even if it happens.
Those who look forward to Donald Trump’s third appointment to the Supreme Court should pay more attention to actions of Trump’s current appointees in June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Russo, the first major abortion case involving Justice Kavanaugh. While the state of Louisiana (personified in Health Secretary Stephen Russo) did not ask the Court to examine Casey while defending its restrictions on abortion providers, the Justices themselves could have forced the issue. Justice Clarence Thomas himself wrote as much in his dissent: “Because we can reconcile neither Roe nor its progeny with the text of our Constitution, those decisions should be overruled.”
No one joined him.
In fact, Justice Gorsuch went so far as to defend Casey in his dissent, while Justice Kavanaugh wouldn’t even state his view on whether Louisiana’s law should be enforced (“additional factfinding is necessary to properly evaluate Louisiana’s law”). I leave it to others to determine if the drama over Kavanaugh’s confirmation – along with the alienation of millions of women from the GOP – was worth the rousing call for “additional factfinding.” The more important point here is that the likelihood of Roe and Casey being reversed looks far lower in 2020 than it did in 2019 – with absolutely no assurance that Donald Trump’s additional selection(s) for the Court will have any more impact than his previous two.
The more crushing blow to the GOP argument comes from data and projections regarding the potential effect of a Roe reversal. An analyst published last July (in Contraception) found at most a reduction in abortions of just over 15 percent, and possibly as low as 10 percent. If we look at the CDC data on the ratio of abortions to live births from 1972 (the year before Roe was handed down) and 2016 (the latest year with data), we find a potential abortion reduction of less than 4 percent.
Compare this to the potential for abortion reduction if would-be parents’ economic concerns were addressed. Dr. Wm. Robert Johnston, a researcher at the Global Life Campaign, found that anywhere from 25-40 percent of abortions were economic reasons.
There are plenty of policies that could allay those concerns (paid parental leave, backdating child support to include pre-natal cost, compensating for disruptions to development in career or in education, etc.) while also facing far less political and constitutional resistance. Moreover, addressing the economic concerns of prospective parents could save two to ten times as many pre-born children as reversing Roe would.
Which major party nominee is more likely to support those policies? Who is more likely to be effective in getting these policies enacted? Who is more likely to leverage political support for these policies at the state and local level, where applicable?
Answer: Joe Biden.
The logical conclusion of this runs counter to our culture-war script, but it is inescapable: More pre-born children would be saved under a Biden Administration than under a second Trump term.
If this estimation of the future doesn’t convince, perhaps the data from the past will. Again, the CDC has been tracking abortion data for decades. Using the number of reported abortions, the ratio of abortion per 1,000 live births, and the rate of abortion per 1,000 women, we can compare Republican and Democratic Administrations going back to 1980. The differences between the two parties is staggering.
Reagan-Bush I (1992 versus 1980): abortions up 4.7 percent, ratio down 7.0 percent, rate down 8.0 percent.
Clinton (2000 versus 1992): abortions down 36.9 percent, ratio down 26.6 percent, rate down 30.4 percent.
Bush II (2008 versus 2000): abortions down 3.8 percent, ratio down 8.2 percent, rate down 2.5 percent.
Obama (2016 versus 2008): abortions down 24.5 percent, ratio down 17.3 percent, rate down 25.6 percent.
By my calculation, that means over 173,000 children were born in 2000 that wouldn’t have been in 1992, while in 2016, over 54,000 children that would have died in 2008 were born instead.
So, when analysis of the past combines with the likely development of the future, the theory that the GOP is better for pre-born children collapses. The events of the last 40 years make it abundantly clear. The politics tell us Republicans are more likely to oppose legal abortion. The data tell us Democrats are more likely to save more pre-born children. Thus, pro-lifers should look to the Democrats as their party and to Joe Biden as their presidential candidate.