On the Abortion Dilemma: Democratic Policies Respect Motherhood and Lead to Fewer Abortions

An email from a potential voter:

I am a Democrat but I am pro-life. I believe abortion is murder. But I believe pro-life goes beyond that. Every life every age is important to support. I feel like Republicans support the unborn and Democrats support after birth. It’s a dilemma for me.

My response:

May 7, 2020

Hi there,

I would emphasize that Democratic proposals will actually reduce the number of abortions, which per capita are already lower than around the time of Roe v. Wade. If you open up funding for contraception, that’s going to cut down on abortions. If you expand Medicaid in Florida, that will cut down on abortions (although pregnancy often opens access to Medicaid, good healthcare should start before pregnancy). If you raise the minimum wage, offer maternal (and paternal!) leave, and increase funding for education, that will cut down on abortions (and improve employee retention and productivity). If you lift people out of poverty and reduce homelessness, that will cut down on abortions.

These are all policies that Republicans rail against. Democratic policies tend to value life at all ages. We certainly do not suggest sacrificing lives to save the economy as is being suggested with COVID-19—which, by the way, is a false dichotomy. You have to control the virus before you can restore the economy, and the policies we are seeing now will kill tens of thousands more Americans and wreck the economy far worse and for far longer.

I, too, used to be against abortion. However, I’ve learned that there is more to this issue that does not neatly boil down to a soundbite. It’s actually extremely presumptuous for men to have the loudest voice about abortion, and yet that’s what we see with our numerous white, wealthy, and well-connected male politicians such as Rep. Michael Waltz, who espouses “conservative values” (as a divorcee, no less) and endorsed a legal argument in Louisiana that would effectively ban abortions (except for the wealthy), despite never himself having experienced menstruation, pregnancy, nor possessing a uterus.

Furthermore, the idea that Republicans are pro-life and Democrats are pro-choice is totally bogus. It came about in the 1970s by political strategists, not organically. At the time, both parties were pro-choice and they at first thought they could get liberal Democrats to be pro-life being that they were already against the death penalty (Williams, 2011). It turned out that the Republican party was the party susceptible to being radicalized by this propaganda, much as they have now allowed themselves to be perverted, radicalized, and, ultimately, destroyed, by Donald Trump.

Worldwide, 90% of abortions occur before 13 weeks. Past neonatal research suggested fetuses cannot feel pain until 26 weeks of gestation, although newer research (Bellieni, 2019; Derbyshire & Bockmann, 2020) suggests fetuses might feel pain, at a primitive level, as early as 20–22 weeks. Morally, this is an important issue, and I can see why some would argue against abortions after this age, or for a requirement that the fetus be anesthetized. The 20-week sonogram is very important for revealing birth defects which might suggest abortion, for the mother’s life or because the baby and parents would have a difficult, costly, and painful life.

Personally, my wife and I have a 14-month old son and we were lucky enough to have 7 sonograms during her pregnancy for various reasons (initial, 12-week, gender, 20-week, two 3D ones, sizing). No one plans to have a baby in the middle of completing a PhD dissertation, but abortion is not for us. However, we also are in a strong financial position and were blessed with a completely healthy pregnancy and perfect baby boy. I do not think we should be dictating the choices of other expectant mothers, most of which do not have it so easy, particularly in Florida’s 6th congressional district which has low wages and high levels of poverty. Women in our district must travel to Orlando or Jacksonville and save up about $500 for an abortion. They may have to take off work and seek transportation and childcare from their partner, friends, or family. This is not something anyone takes lightly.

Richard Thripp, Ph.D.
Progressive Democrat for U.S. Congress in Florida’s 6th District

Snippet for Twitter: How would you respond to a pro-life Democrat facing a dilemma? Look past ideology. Florida’s 6th district, particularly Volusia County, has been left behind.

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