How do you prevent abortions? You prevent pregnancies. And how do you prevent pregnancies? You teach comprehensive sex education to kids, and you make sure birth control is accessible. This seems rather self-evident, and it’s something those of us who’ve taught sex ed or otherwise been deeply involved in the sex education wars are well aware of. And now, Will Saletan over at Slate has written a cleverly titled piece, Where Rubber Meets Roe, about the pro-life brigade finally jumping aboard the bandwagon. While it’s interesting to see the logic of pro-life Democrat Tim Ryan, of Ohio, and how his bill ended up splitting into two over the debate over contraception, what’s really important about the article is the data that swayed Ryan.
Ryan’s bill is targeting families with incomes 200 percent below the poverty level, a number that is hard to wrap your mind around. (Consider that the poverty level for parents with two children under 18 is $19,000.) It looks like that in this group of women, access to contraception fell, and sexual activity also fell. But rates of unintended pregnancy increased; the fall in sexual activity did not match the fall in contraception use, so abortion rates increased. What the Saletan piece doesn’t mention, though, is the composition of the women in that 200 percent below poverty level group. We can infer, from the government census website, that the majority of the women in this group are going to be Hispanic or African American. Non-Hispanic white’s only make up 8.3% of the 37 million people in poverty in this country, a number that is slowly falling. Hispanic and African American’s make up 21.8 and 24.9%, respectively.
Access to abortion and contraception is an important women’s health issue that is intensified by class issues and money. And for better or worse, there is a racial disperity between the people fighting these legislative bills and the people who have to live in the reality of the changes the bills bring.
(And a hat tip to AJOB’s bioethics newsfeed, which put this article across my desk this morning.)