Steve Black: Utah Legislature needs to deal with demand for abortion

Prohibition and the war on drugs show that criminalizing supply does not end the demand.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Senate President Stuart Adams, answers questions about Utah's trigger law, SB174, that will prohibit elective abortion in Utah, during a news conference at the State Capitol, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, on Friday, June 24, 2022.

The Supreme Court of the United States just allowed states to criminalize the supply of abortion but did not address the demand. Reducing the demand is the job of the state Legislature. Without dealing with the perceived need for abortions, merely criminalizing supply will likely be a recipe for disaster.

There is a historical precedent. With Prohibition, we criminalized the supply of alcohol without doing anything about demand. The result was the rapid proliferation of organized crime families that still run rampant in many parts of our country.

Similarly, with our “war on drugs,” we criminalized the supply of alcohol but did nothing about demand. Hence the crime cartels in Colombia and Mexico, with all the devastating damage they’ve done throughout the Americas, especially in the U.S.

Now, I beg the Legislature to do something about the demand for abortion, not just pretending to eliminate the supply.

Sex education.

Please allow us to teach all children (by necessity in school with recurring age-appropriate lessons) about the causes and repercussions of pregnancy. Abstinence-only education has done nothing to reduce pregnancies. Oh, it keeps our puritanical element happy, but it leaves our teenagers telling each other that they can’t get pregnant the first time, or that the boy will be able to pull out in time, or all the other myths they tell each other because no one tells them the real facts.

Abstinence-only education leaves those who fail at abstinence — and not a small percentage fail —extremely vulnerable to pregnancies, which generates demand for abortion. Sex education can and should stress that abstinence is by far the best contraceptive, but it’s not the only option. When these kids are accidentally or intentionally no longer abstinent, they must know what they should do instead.

Access to contraception

Speaking of which, many teens and most adults have sex. If you had children, you did, too. For those who fail at abstinence and those who choose otherwise, contraception must be accessible and affordable. Otherwise, unwanted pregnancies. Again, if we want to eliminate abortion, let’s find ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies rather than throw more people into overcrowded prisons for having had unprotected sex when protection wasn’t available.

Affordable and accessible health care

Women who get pregnant but can’t afford health care greatly increase the demand for abortion. Let’s provide health care for everyone — at bare minimum for all pregnant women — and the demand for abortion will be reduced. There is a disproportionate burden on people of color.

Living wages

Families who earn so little that an additional child would make them homeless are prime candidates for abortion. Women who have adequate household income are less likely to seek abortion. There is a disproportionate burden on people of color.

Affordable and accessible child care

When the expenses of child care put you below poverty level, you are less likely to want to carry a child to term. Once again, there is a disproportionate burden on people of color.

All of the above have either never been addressed by the Utah Legislature or have been intentionally prohibited. If criminalizing the supply of abortion is all we ever intend to do, heaven help us. Unless and until we help all the women/families in this state to never feel any need for an abortion, the newly illegal supply may well wreak havoc on this state.

Steve Black

Steve Black, South Jordan, is a retired postal worker who has long been both pro-life and pro-choice, but neither at the exclusion of the other.