Thank you for the coverage of our race in your latest edition (Buffalo Reflex, Oct. 24, 2018). I was pleased with the article about the state representative race with one exception. You quote me as saying, “I don’t want women to not be able to get an abortion in Missouri.”
I genuinely do not think I said this, and I find the quote uncharacteristic, confusing and deceiving. The truth of the matter is, women don’t have babies in the abstract. They have them in a complicated and imperfect world. The abortion issue is very complex, and I spent more than a half hour talking with you about it.
My opponent likes to claim that he’s “pro life.” Well, what does that actually mean?
To me, being “pro life” is about caring for the lives of women and children and babies. Not in the rhetorical sense, but in the sense that there are real, practical things we can do to improve people’s lives.
When we improve access to affordable housing, the abortion rate falls. When poor women have access to safe and reliable transportation, the abortion rate falls. When poor women have good-quality health insurance and affordable child care, the abortion rate falls.
When we fully fund sex ed, the abortion rate falls. When contraceptives are free and easy to get, the abortion rate falls.
Here’s what doesn’t work: making abortion illegal without any thought to the needs of struggling women. We’ve tried that before. We know how that movie ends. During the 1860s, a flurry of states criminalized abortion. Over the course of that decade, dozens of anti-abortion laws were put on the books, but historians say the demand for abortion didn’t even dip.
It did have a big effect, though: It put a lot of people in jail and a lot of women in the morgue. Nearly half of all maternal deaths in New York in 1967 were from illegal abortions. It wasn’t a small number of women who died; lots and lots of them did. Doesn’t sound very pro-life to me.
Four years ago, a health research team interviewed hundreds of women who had had abortions. What they found was this: The vast majority of them were 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Almost all of them had a least one child already. Almost universally, they told the interviewers that poverty was the driving force behind their decision to seek an abortion.
Making something illegal doesn’t make it go away. If we really want to change things, then we need to make life better for women. It’s not the easy answer, but it’s the only thing that’s going to actually work.