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There’s No Shame in Pushing Abortion Out of Your State
Oregon’s 2020 abortion decline may have been historic, but there were two states who saw their abortion percentages fall even further. The abortion ratio—which measures abortions against births—fell by 13% in Oregon, by 20% in Oklahoma, and by a whopping 68% in South Dakota. These are all significant outliers, because the nationwide abortion ratio increased in 2020. The reason for South Dakota’s decline is fairly straightforward. The only abortion clinic in the state was closed for half the year. As a result, South Dakota’s already diminutive abortion total fell from 414 in 2019 to 125 in 2020.
Abortion advocates will point out that South Dakota’s abortion total is artificially low. This is because a number of South Dakota women leave the state each year to have an abortion. To an extent, this is true of all states—but some states import more abortions than they export. South Dakota does not. South Dakota is an abortion exporter, and in 2020, more South Dakota women aborted their children out of state than in—leading to the following headline in the Aberdeen News: “Halt to abortions in South Dakota during pandemic led women to get procedure in other states.” Strictly speaking, this is true, but many of the conclusions being peddled are not. South Dakota abortion-rights activist Kim Floren smugly insists that “people are going to get abortions whether it’s available or not, whether it’s legal or not.” Here again, her statement is true but misleading—thanks to the omission of the word “some.” By leaving that word out, it’s inferred that the availability of abortion has no bearing on a mother's decision to abort. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In 2019, South Dakota mothers had 645 recorded abortions. Almost half occurred in other states. In 2020, despite the fact there were more socio-economic reasons to have an abortion, that number fell to 570—with more than 80% occurring in other states. So even though the demand for abortion grew, and even though lots of mothers left South Dakota to obtain one, the resident abortion total still fell. This is because abortions were harder for South Dakotans to obtain in 2020 than they were in 2019. Perhaps you would counter that 12% is a relatively minor reduction. Fair enough, but what if South Dakota’s only abortion clinic had been closed all year? And what if the states surrounding South Dakota had also closed their clinics? Wouldn’t that have pushed the abortion decline well past 12 percent? Even more to the point, consider the abortion percentages in states of similar population size.
Vermont has two-thirds the population of South Dakota, but there were 1,227 abortions performed within its borders in 2020. Delaware, the state just above South Dakota on the population chart, had 2,281 abortions. Even if we include out-of-state abortions, less than 5% of South Dakota pregnancies ended in abortion in 2020, compared to 19% in Vermont and 12% in Delaware. Why this disparity? Because it’s much easier to get an abortion in Vermont or Delaware than it is in South Dakota. There are six abortion clinics in Vermont and four in Delaware. Abortion bans—or mere abortion obstacles—don’t eliminate abortion altogether, but they do drive the numbers way down. This is obvious and demonstrable.
Oklahoma’s 2020 abortion decline is harder to account for than South Dakota’s. On March 27, Governor Kevin Stitt banned all nonessential medical procedures—including abortion—in response to the COVID outbreak. But less than two weeks later, a federal judge overturned the decision—allowing medical abortions and some surgical abortions to resume. By April 24, all abortions were again green-lighted. Though the surgical abortion ban was in place for less than a month, Oklahoma’s surgical abortion total fell from from 2,416 in 2019 to 1,247 in 2020. The medical abortion total was virtually unchanged. But why? Perhaps some number of pregnant Oklahoma women didn’t realize the surgical abortion ban had been lifted. Or perhaps they weren’t comfortable having a surgical abortion amidst the uncertainty of COVID. Or perhaps Oklahoma’s abortion clinics were simply too short-staffed to operate at full capacity. Whatever the reasons, Oregon and Oklahoma—states with very little in common—shared a similar abortion trajectory in 2020. But unlike Oregon—whose abortion total fell again in 2021, Oklahoma’s tally almost certainly increased.
Oklahoma and South Dakota both oppose abortion at the state level. It’s only allowed within their borders because the federal government forbids states from restricting it—at least in the main. But then Oklahoma’s neighbor to the south did something that hadn’t been achieved in five decades. Texas found a way around Roe. Specifically, it enacted a law that forbids abortion past detectable cardiac activity—which is somewhere around 6 weeks LMP (or 4 weeks from conception). Since only 43% of 2019 U.S. abortions occurred at or before 6 weeks gestation, this new restriction bans most abortions in the state. And somehow—beyond explanation—Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) wasn’t struck down. It went into effect last September. That’s good news for Texas, but it suddenly made Oklahoma an abortion destination for those Texas women who were still determined to kill their tiny and helpless unborn children.
Predictably, the legacy media has portrayed the Texas abortion ban as backwards and ineffectual while the NAACP has gone so far as to formally urge pro athletes against signing with teams in Texas. Abortion, they insist, is “a basic human right.” During the first three months for which data are available (September through November 2021), monthly abortions in Texas fell by 48% over the year before. But The New York Times published a piece last montharguing that Texas abortions have only fallen by 10%—owing to a combination of out-of-state abortions and abortion by mail. While it’s possible this is true, their conclusion is wholly based on two University of Texas studies, both of which were conducted by teams unequivocally committed to abortion. None of the states surrounding Texas have yet published their 2021 abortion totals, so the numbers reported by UT cannot be independently verified.
According to the first study, “an average of 1,391 Texans per month obtained abortions [at] out-of-state facilities” between September and December 2021. The authors arrived at this number by contacting abortion clinics in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. And because they were only able to obtain counts for 34 of the 44 clinics operating in these states, they speculate that “these data undercount the total number of Texans receiving care out of state.” This, according to the NYT, is “12 times as many as typically sought abortions out of state before the law.” That translates to an out-of-state abortion increase of roughly 1,275 per month, against an in-state abortion decrease of roughly 2,152 per month. If those numbers are accurate, that means Texas’ resident abortion reduction was closer to 20% than 50%. And then there’s the second study, which is the more troubling of the two.
Aid Access is a non-profit organization that has been providing “self-managed medication abortion through online telemedicine” since 2018. According to The New York Times, what they’re doing is illegal since it is unlawful to “sell prescription medicine to American patients from another country without a prescription from a doctor licensed in the United States.” Nevertheless, from September through December, Texas women reportedly requested an average of 1,136 medical abortions per month from Aid Access. That’s 812 more monthly requests than Aid Access is said to have received prior to SB 8. Aid Access concedes that there’s no follow up to determine if these abortions actually took place, but that doesn’t make the apparent preponderance of off-the-grid abortions—that aren’t being tabulated in official abortion counts—any easier to bear. If these medical abortions did take place—and if these numbers are legitimate, then Texas women may have aborted as many children in the fourth quarter of 2021 as they did in the fourth quarter of 2020. Having said that, there are reasons to be skeptical of these numbers.
Abortion advocates tend to speak out both sides of their mouth. On the one hand, they want us to feel guilty for the fact that SB 8 is “forcing” poor women and minority women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. “Those who were unable to get abortions,” the Times laments “are most likely to be poor [because] it’s expensive to travel to another state and pay for transportation, child care and lodging in addition to the procedure.” But on the other hand, we’ve been told that abortion bans don’t meaningfully prevent abortion at all. “The law has not done anything to change people’s need for abortion care,” Kari White, the first study’s lead author, tells us. “It has (simply) shifted where people are getting their abortion.” The veracity of this assertion notwithstanding, her appeal to the “need for abortion” is revealing in itself. I tend not to trust the ethical conclusions of those who blithely assume that baby-killing is a legitimate social need.
Kari White might be a fine researcher, but she’s certainly not objective. She complains that SB 8 forces some women “to continue their pregnancies, which is associated with adverse health and economic consequences for parents and their children.” Translation: if women can’t abort their children, their children will suffer adverse health consequences. I’m guessing, though, that these adverse health effects would be less severe than, say, death by dismemberment. And then White chastises pregnancy resource centers for “inappropriately discourag[ing] pregnant people from choosing abortion.” I’ll note here that the term “pregnant people” shows up three times in the study. The term “pregnant women” doesn’t appear at all. Like Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was nominated to the Supreme Court precisely because she is a woman, Kari White apparently lacks the biological training to know who it is who gets pregnant. Returning to the material point, White has a clear agenda, and that agenda is advanced by casting SB 8 in as poor a light as possible. The same goes for the abortion clinics from which her counts were derived. They also have a vested interest in discrediting Texas’ abortion ban, and the second study has much the same problem. All their counts are coming from a pseudo abortion provider that is using Indian pharmacies to illegally distribute abortion pills throughout America. Is it really out of the question that they could be lying about their numbers? Hasn’t the abortion industry always demonstrated a willingness to say whatever was necessary to advance their agenda?
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the abortion totals put forward by these studies are true. Let’s assume that Texas abortions have not been reduced. They’ve just been pushed out of state or underground—like deck chairs being rearranged on the Titanic. Even if that were the case, it was still noble, and righteous, and just to do what Texas did. Yes, some abortions remain legal, for now, but legal in-state abortions fell by 50%. Instantly. Those are abortions Texas is no longer culpable for. It’s the first step in excising the bloodguilt of child sacrifice from within their borders. And that is no small thing. Never mind the claims of the NAACP; there is no shame in pushing abortion out of your state. Quite the opposite.
Last year, an infestation of mole crickets made a home in my family’s front yard. And in talking to our neighbors, we learned that we weren’t alone. The mole crickets in our yard had been in our neighbor’s yard before. But then our neighbors took steps to make their yards inhospitable to mole crickets. And so they moved to our yard. Do I blame our neighbors for sending these unruly pests our way? Of course not. Mole crickets will move from one yard to the next, apparently, until every yard in the neighborhood is sufficiently inhospitable to their survival. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Abortion advocates frequently describe unborn children as parasites, but it’s closer to the truth to describe abortion as a parasite. It eats away at the life of society. You cannot enshrine injustice in law without tearing at the fabric of civilization. And when Roe finally falls, whenever that might be, we’re going to be able to see in even clearer detail the kind of toxic toll legal abortion actually takes—because there will then be two kinds of states in the country: those that protect the lives of the weakest and most marginalized members of the human community and those who sanction and even fund their execution. Which states will be the most healthy and which states will risk running themselves into extinction? Time will tell.
The stereotypical bleeding-heart liberal wants to make almost everyone into a victim—everyone except the one group of people who are victimized more than anyone else in the world. Think I’m overstating things? Twenty-one percent of American unborn children will be killed before their birth date. What other group of people is being slaughtered at that rate? And if you snap back, “They’re not people!” well, you’ve just proved my point. Dehumanization drives historic injustice, which is why we should never classify an objectively human being as a "non-person." If you care about the weak and powerless, as abortion advocates purportedly do, you don’t lament the fact that abortion bans have a disproportionate impact on the poor and marginalized. You lament the fact that abortion kills the poor and marginalized.
I’ll end with a few more reasons to hope. In the absence of Roe, abortion will immediately be illegal in three of the four states surrounding Texas, including Oklahoma. That means, in the words of the first study, “Texans–and residents of these other states–will have to travel even farther to obtain facility-based abortion care,” and it’s a well-established fact that “longer distances tend to reduce abortions, as the challenges of travel mount.” What kind of dent would that put in Texas’ out-of-state abortion total? And don’t forget that all abortions would then be illegal in Texas—not just the post six-weeks variety. At current rates, that takes another 2,154 abortions off the board each month. Then there’s this. The only reason so many Texas peoplewere able to spend “several hundred and (sometimes) several thousand dollars” to have an abortion out of state is because other people were paying for it. But that funding is already drying up, so says the NYT. “Donations (to pay for abortions) decreased after a bump when the law went into effect.” Even though the first UT study is chock-full of agonizing stories about the immense hardship of suddenly having to leave the state to kill your child, here’s the simple truth. Texans, and eventually all Americans, will learn to adapt. They will, by necessity, reorient their lives to account for the fact that it is no longer a simple or legal thing to kill their unborn baby. And the nation will be a much better place for it.