Listen to Women - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2044501

Listen to Women

The Express News Group is to be commended for publishing a courageous piece on the diverse viewpoints of the clergy on the morality of abortion [“Local Faith Leaders Contemplate Their Roles in a Post-Roe World,”, August 30]. The reported conversations with clergy women show that the question of when life begins is not met in a consistent, universal way, across, or within, different religion traditions.

But how much does religious affiliation actually weigh in women’s decision whether to terminate an unwanted pregnancy? Religion, although an influence regarding the morality of contraception and abortion, is not the only or even the most important determinant of women’s decision-making when faced with a variety of reasons supporting the unwelcoming idea of terminating a pregnancy.

American women seldom view abortion in very stark ideological terms. More often than not, women disregard church mandates and distrust governmental intrusion in their private decisions.

Studies show that around 25 percent of women in the reproductive age bracket are deciding to perform one or more abortions during their lifetimes, independently of their specific affiliation: No big differences are observed today in the United States between mainstream Protestants, Catholics and Jews.

Abortion rates have consistently declined since the early 1990s. The Guttmacher Institute, the most reliable source of survey data in this field, recorded 1.5 million abortions in 1991 but only 930,000 in 2020. Increased access to user-friendly contraception, enhanced and earlier sexual education, and a decline in the family and community stigmas associated with premarital sex are usually accepted as major determinants of a decline in abortions.

Today, approximately half of the total are medical abortions, approved for use until 10 weeks into pregnancy. However, a total of 35 states had limited access to medical abortion access before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and clearly more restrictions are on their way.

Total bans on abortion, with narrowly defined exceptions legislated in the abstract by governments, and severe penalties for women and health professionals engaged in terminating pregnancies, have proved to be poor means to achieve their aims. Prohibition does not diminish the number of pregnancies that women cannot or do not want to bring to term.

In the past, communist regimes imagined they could ban abortions, with predictable negative consequences for women relying on illegal, unsafe procedures. Today, inspired by “Christian nationalist” ideologues, elected conservative regimes in Hungary and Poland are attempting similar policies.

Congress should learn from past experiences, in the U.S. and elsewhere, and listen more carefully to the voices of women facing difficult decisions and to the best advice of the medical professions in the field of reproductive health, before engaging in a new round of detailed regulations of their behavior that are doomed to fail, not without much suffering, in what they aim.

Jorge Balan