Asking ourselves, ‘Are babies better than abortions?’

With the March for Life just around the corner, it’s hard not to be aware of the cultural contradictions inherent in our attitudes toward life, specifically unborn life.

Ross Douthat calls it the Unborn Paradox, pointing to the high rate of abortion on one hand and the unprecedented number of couples coping with infertility on the other. Currently, one in five pregnancies end in abortion, while the long list of couples waiting to adopt babies grows. Increasingly elaborate fertility treatments, a booming industry that preys on a couple’s sometimes desperate desire to “be fruitful and multiply,” offer a sliver of hope to some, but at considerable personal and financial expense. Even teen pregnancy is being looked at in a new light, showing an alternative to abortion in recent entertainment offerings like Juno and the reality TV show Teen Mom.

The fact remains: Abortion is still unsettling to most. No one wants to have an abortion.  And yet the high rate at which they occur prompted William McGurn to ask, “Are babies better than abortions?” Looking at the numbers, it can be hard to tell:

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For Hispanics, the abortion rate was 41.3%—i.e., more than double the rate for whites. For African-Americans the numbers are still more grim: For every 1,000 African-American live births in New York, there were 1,489 abortions.

And still Planned Parenthood would maintain that things are better now than they used to be. But, McGurn counters, would it be too much for them to recognize “that a 41% abortion rate means that many pregnant women are not getting the social help and encouragement they need to have their babies?”

We all know people whose absolutism on a woman’s legal right to choose does not prevent them from celebrating and supporting a pregnant woman within their midst who announces she is going to have a baby. So put aside Roe for a minute. And ask yourself this: What kind of America might we have if all pregnant women—especially black and Hispanic women who are disproportionately aborting—could feel from society that same welcome and encouragement?

Would it be too much to say “better”?


  • Irene Lagan

    Irene Lagan is the general manager of Guadalupe Radio in Washington, DC. She is a former collaborator for the English language section of Vatican Radio, has written for several publications, and holds a Masters degree in philosophy. She served as managing editor at the National Catholic Bioethics Center while in Boston, and has been published in Ethics & Medics, the National Catholic Register, Zenit, Franciscan Way, the Arlington Catholic Herald, and The Boston Globe. In addition, she has taught university students as an adjunct professor and has consulted in the area of communications and development for non-profit organizations.

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