Joseph Stalin is reputed to have said, “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”
Tens of millions of babies’ lives have been lost in the genocide we call abortion since Roe v Wade passed. Some estimates put the number as high as 54 million in the United States alone. Globally, the numbers are more than that every year. A Lancet article published in 2016 puts the global abortion numbers at 56.3 million annually.
The loss of potential to the world is staggering.
Several states, including Utah, have passed legislation recently that would seem to push the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn or at least change Roe v Wade. New York passed legislation that affirms that abortions can be performed up through the 42nd week of pregnancy, two weeks after a typical 40-week pregnancy.
According to a Gallup poll in 2018, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as pro-choice and those who identify themselves as pro-life is now the same: 48 percent. That represents significant change from 1995, when 56 percent of respondents identified themselves as pro-choice and only 33 percent said they were pro-life.
Let’s be clear: No one is advocating a return to “back alley, coat-hanger induced abortions” or the embodiment of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian “Handmaid’s Tale.”
Most Americans do believe that there should be some cases where legal abortion is available, including in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. Most Americans also believe that abortions should be restricted to the first trimester and do not support late-term abortions except for very rare cases.
Both sides love to swim in hyperbole and point to the most extreme of potential cases: forcing an 11-year old rape victim to carry a pregnancy to term, or, on the other side, doctors wrapping live-born babies and then sitting down and talking to the parents about “options,” including euthanasia. (Thankfully that last scenario simply does not happen in the United States, and it is truly reprehensible that some public figures pretend it does.)
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice reproductive research organization, fewer than 1 percent of all U.S. abortions are done because of rape, while 75 percent of women who chose abortion cite “concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents.”
In the years since Roe v Wade became law, our understanding of life inside the womb has increased. Through advances in ultrasound technology and cutting edge fetal surgeries, we know that babies have a beating heart a mere 22 days after conception, have unique fingerprints and a full-blown “exercise routine” by 10 weeks. Babies in utero suck their thumbs, open and shut their eyes, make breathing movements, suck and swallow weeks before they are born.
Viability for babies has been pushed backwards many weeks. When Roe v Wade passed, the viability cutoff for life outside the womb was 28.5 weeks. Now, it’s close to 20. Just this week, the world’s smallest surviving micro-preemie baby, a girl named Saybie, was released from the hospital after being born at 8.6 ounces or just over a half a pound.
Being pro-life means we honor life out of the womb as well. We support keeping families together and not separating children from their parents without significant compelling reasons — no matter where those children were born. We support families who are raising children with disabilities, we help families escape intergenerational poverty and we fund education because it’s a key to empowering girls and women. Because we know one of the best ways to prevent abortion is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, we speak clearly to teens and pre-teens about sex, how pregnancies happen and how they can be prevented. We support inexpensive and easy access to birth control. We expect boys and men to be responsible sexual partners, since no pregnancy or abortion ever happened with a woman by herself. We also must show kindness and compassion to mothers feeling trapped and without options.
In the end, the loss of tens of millions of babies — hundreds of millions worldwide — is more than just a statistic. It is a true tragedy.
Holly Richardson is a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune.