We can all agree, regardless of where we fall on the issue, that it would be ideal to reduce abortions. But, let’s be honest: if you think that abortion rates can be reduced by making abortions illegal—or at least, more difficult to obtain—then you’re simply deluding yourself. Abortions happened before Roe v. Wade, and they’re damn sure going to keep happening in places where they are made illegal (or effectively so).

Restricting abortion is the wrong way to go about it.

There are two versions of justification for the kinds of abortions bills we’re seeing lately, like those in Texas and Ohio. Legislators claim the new restrictions are to protect women’s health by ensuring that the doctors performing these procedures are of the highest caliber, while pro-life protesters seem to be more interested in saving innocent babies.

I think we can make significant improvements on both those fronts without denying women bodily autonomy. I’m a far cry from an expert on the subject: these are common-sense things that will absolutely reduce abortion rates.

Protecting pregnant women’s health

  • Support universal healthcare and Medicaid. This one’s a no-brainer: if you want to protect women’s health, make sure they have access to health care! There’s a great article by a woman who moved to Canada and had children there. This self-described “die-hard conservative Republican” talks about limiting checkups during her earlier pregnancy in the US in order to keep costs down, and since she also talked about the possibility of coming back to the US to give birth here (and pay out of pocket), I think it’s safe to say that she’s in a better financial situation than most women who might be questioning whether they can afford to go through with a pregnancy. This is an obvious first step: make sure that no woman feels compelled to skip check-ups or tests during or after her pregnancy, or be burdened with medical debt that she might not be in a position to handle.
  • Support the Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act. I’m surprised that this isn’t getting more attention. This bill would ensure that pregnant women receive the accommodations they need to continue working while pregnant, as well as protections to ensure they don’t lose their jobs due to their pregnancy. Seems reasonable that a women is more likely to go through with a pregnancy when she can be sure that she won’t lose her job over it.
  • Support equal pay for women. Women still make about 77% of what their male counterparts do. 42% of women seeking abortions are below the poverty line; another 27% make less than double that (source). For a single mother, in 2012, the poverty line is $11,945 (from Census.gov); double that is $23,890. That means that 69% of women seeking abortions are making less than twelve bucks an hour. (I’m generalizing a bit here, and assuming single motherhood. The poverty level for women with a spouse or children is comparably low.) Make sure that women make enough money that they don’t have to worry about whether they can afford to care for a child (or another one, in the case of women who already have children).

Saving innocent babies

  • Seriously: Support universal healthcare and Medicaid! Does it need to be said that every kid deserves health care once they’re born? It boggles my mind that there has been debate about who deserves health care. Everyone does. End of debate.
  • Overhaul the adoption system. Maybe overhaul is the wrong word, but as I understand it, it’s very difficult to adopt a child. And, from a little bit of looking around, it’s not clear how much support the birth mother can really get from the adoptive parents (assuming they have the means to support her, that is): it seems that California, for example, specifically prohibits adoptive parents for paying for a lot of things for the birth mother (or paying her for the actual baby, which makes sense). If we want to increase adoption rates, we need to make it a truly viable option for the birth mother, and that may well include paying all medical fees (that aren’t otherwise covered), along with covering lost wages. Perhaps this would be adequately handled by the universal health care, Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act, and equal pay for women issues: it stands to reason that a pregnant woman would go through with a pregnancy and allow the child to be adopted if there’s some guarantee that the pregnancy won’t cost her in medical bills and a lost job or wages.

Dropping abortion numbers generally

  • Provide comprehensive sex ed. Again: no brainer. Studies have shown time and again that comprehensive sex ed leads to lower rates of unintended pregnancies. Make sure that kids know how to use contraception.
  • Make contraception and Plan B readily available. I know some people oppose Plan B because it can, in some cases, terminate an hours-old pregnancy. Well: tough. Ending a pregnancy at 20 hours is indisputably better than ending it at 20 weeks. Furthermore, contraception should be readily available. The idea that having condoms on hand is “pre-meditated sin” may make sense in a theological sense, but isn’t worth a damn in a practical sense. Same goes for birth control: I’ve seen that some people oppose the idea of subsidizing birth control (whether that be under national health care or otherwise), but if you’re really interested in preventing abortion, chipping in a little more to ensure that women can get birth control will help.

In conclusion

I don’t think I’m overstepping when I say that pro-life folks tend toward the conservative side, and if I may generalize, that tends to come with a host of other positions that stand in direct opposition to some of my suggestions above.

Get over it. You can be pro-life, or you can grandstand about welfare queens and paying for other people’s contraception, but you can’t have it both ways.