Abortion is the defining, underlying issue of the Illinois GOP gubernatorial primary. Not taxes, not the budget deficit, nor the pension burden, nor education nor infrastructure — matters the governor and Legislature can do something about.
This column is not about anti-abortion or abortion rights arguments, but about whether the two sides could ever come together to work on efforts both sides might agree on—how to reduce the number of abortions. My friend Perry Klopfenstein of Gridley (north of Bloomington) thinks it is possible.
First, the governor’s race. Earlier this year Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill that provides taxpayer funding for abortions, after declaring on several occasions, even to the Catholic cardinal of Chicago, that he would veto the bill.
This action prompted outrage among anti-abortion conservative Christian groups in the state. And it was the catalyst for the GOP gubernatorial run of conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton.
Ives is now running TV commercials that appear to stigmatize gays and transgender persons as well as those who have abortions. Ives declares that Rauner is their friend.
Many, including the head of the state GOP, are calling for Ives to pull the commercials, but she persists. Ives is obviously trying to arouse the base of social conservatives, which is hard to do in primary elections. Only a small fraction, 15 percent or less, of persons 18 and over typically cast Republican primary ballots in Illinois.
Now to my friend Perry Klopfenstein. Perry is a smart guy, a successful small businessman, Republican activist, staunchly anti-abortion. As with many people, I am opposed to abortion, yet come down on the abortion rights side of the divide.
Perry thinks people like the two of us should come together to work on generally non-governmental policies that would reduce abortions. I still have in my files an op-ed column by Perry that appeared in the April 5, 1998, edition of the Peoria Journal-Star.
In his piece, Perry declares that rhetorical warfare has not produced positive results. “It’s time to break the stalemate,” Perry says.
He lays out seven “incentives for life,” which include adoption, informed and parental consent, and medical and living assistance for those who would carry-to-term, this last a rather liberal position.
Perry encourages the abortion rights side to come up with their suggestions as well. I think of better sex education and making adoption easier. I hear from couples wanting to adopt that the process is often more difficult that it needs to be.
Then there is an idea I have offered before and which many find way too harsh, to wit: In return for the state’s safety net for a single mother and her first child, a woman would agree to wear a long-term birth control patch.
I offer this for the sake of the woman. A single, under-educated, single parent who has more than one child is basically consigning herself to a life of dependency on the state dole.
The ideas above may have merit, or not. Perry’s point is that both sides could come together in support of efforts to reduce abortions, and not wait for court decisions that may or may not ever come. Roe v. Wade (1973), which laid out a constitutional right to abortion, is not likely to be overturned in the near future, though it might be down the line, as more conservative justices are appointed.
The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group, reports that almost one-fifth (19 percent) of all pregnancies in 2014 ended in abortion. The number of abortions that year is estimated to have been 926,000, or 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44.
This is a startling number to me, yet it is way down from earlier years. In 1980, the high point for abortions, there were 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women, twice the 2014 rate.
Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition, an anti-abortion group, identifies the following as factors in the lower rates of unintended pregnancies: increased contraception use; fewer teens having sex; increased opposition to abortion among the young, and greater willingness to have a child from an unintended pregnancy.
So, possibly the intense public debate between anti-abortion and abortion rights positions has made young men and women more conscious of their options to unintended pregnancy and abortion.
Yet wouldn’t it be great if Bruce Rauner and Jeanne Ives took joint leadership in exhorting us to create community groups of both anti-abortion and abortion rights folks to see how we might reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion even further?
Note to readers: Jim Nowlan of Toulon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.