Gurgle.com is a UK-based website that bills itself as "the web's friendliest community for first time parents." Until Tuesday, I had never heard of it, but that all changed when one of its stories was picked up by Yahoo! News. The headline read: "Single women using abortion as another form of contraceptive," and the lead paragraph included the following revelation:
According to recent statistics, 5 out of 6 abortions in England and Wales were repeat abortions.
If true, that would be almost twice the repeat abortion rate of the United States, where an estimated 47% of all abortions are performed on women with at least one prior abortion. As it turns out, the percentage reported by gurgle is not true. In a Sunday story from the Daily Mail, covering the same NHS data, they report that "only" a third of all abortions in England and Wales are repeat abortions. This discrepancy led me to the NHS website itself, where they state that in 2010, 34% of all abortions were repeats, up from 30% in 2000.
Returning to the Mail article, they report that unmarried women account for "five out of every six repeat terminations." This is almost certainly where gurgle's erroneous, 5 out of 6 claim originated from–reminding us again to be careful about what we read online. But despite publishing a significantly botched statistic, the central premise of the article still stands, namely that repeat abortion is costing the UK roughly £1million a week. This, in fact, is the headline of the Daily Mail article: "NHS spends £1m a week on repeat abortions: Single women using terminations 'as another form of contraceptive'"
The concern in both articles is that women in the UK are routinely (and casually) using abortion as birth control. And because the UK publicly funds all abortions, tax-payers are footing the bill. Daniel Martin, the author of the Mail piece, marvels that "it is not unknown for some women to have seven, eight or even nine terminations in their lifetime." A female reader from Liverpool added the following comment to the story:
Words fail me… abortion is a choice and preference for some people in varying situations but for people who clearly haven't learned time after time there needs to be something in place where abortion is not used as a contraception!! It should be no more than 2...
The biggest flaw with statements like this is the implication that though there is nothing wrong with having one or two abortions, there is something wrong with having eight or nine. This makes no sense. If there is nothing wrong with one, how can there be anything wrong with nine? I read a USA Today story on Wednesday about the mother in Florida who shot and killed her four children. Nowhere in the article did anyone assert that the mother's behavior would have been more reasonable if she'd limited herself to just shooting one or two of her children. Imagine someone saying, "I can understand a mother making a mistake and killing one child, but to kill four… that's outrageous!" What an absurdity such thinking would be, and yet this is exactly the ideology that is all too common in the context of abortion. This was particularly clear in a Daily Mail commentary published on Monday. Bel Mooney, who identifies herself as a longtime abortion-rights advocate, writes the following:
Like so many of my peers back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, I passionately argued the case for [legal] abortion… [but] when I read that the NHS is spending just under £1 million per week on repeat abortions, I found myself plunged into another sort of depression at the sheer carelessness of my own sex. Yes, some of those terminations will have been carried out for sound reasons.
I should know — I had an abortion just over 30 years ago for medical reasons. And, frankly, I’ve no wish to see babies born to schoolgirls. But too many abortions are clearly happening because grown-up women are just too sloppy to take proper control of their own bodies.
When my generation marched with placards asking for ‘Abortion on Demand’, we were not suggesting abortion should be seen as merely another variety of contraception — although that view was held on the wilder shores of the women’s movement.
But, shockingly, today that seems to be how many young women treat a medical procedure which, let us not forget, terminates a life.
Give Mooney credit for admitting that abortion ends a human life, but isn't it puzzling that this concession doesn't influence her thinking further? She believes abortion is appropriate for schoolgirls, but not for grown women who should know better. Are we to believe then that the lives terminated by schoolgirls are less human than the lives terminated by adults? Are children born to teenaged parents less valuable or less deserving of protection than children born to women in their 20's or 30's? The difficulty society has in reconciling the widespread, casual use of abortion is strong evidence that there is something intrinsically wrong with abortion itself. Try as we might, we can't have it both ways. If abortion is an amoral medical procedure, who cares how many times a woman has one? But if abortion is a fatal assault against a helpless human being, how is one abortion any more justified than nine?
The fact that there is so much widespread moral outrage over repeat abortion is strong indication that whether society admits it or not, we know on what side of the abortion debate we should be falling.
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.