To reduce abortions, perhaps less focus on lectures and more on birth control

Are pro-life Republicans interested in creating headlines or reducing the number of abortions?

I’m pro-life, but I couldn’t help but be frustrated this week when the Republican majority in the North Dakota House of Representatives passed HB1336 on a 73-16 vote.

That bill, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Johnston (R-Kathryn), would add to the list of lectures women must receive when seeking an abortion.

Already our state’s informed consent statute requires that a woman be told about medical assistance benefits, adoption, the potential for child support if the child is born, and that she can withdraw her consent for the abortion at any time.

Johnston’s bill would also require the woman be told the effects of an abortion-inducing drug can possibly be reversed if she changes her mind about the abortion.

Someone contemplating an abortion should have all the information possible about the decision before them, but a list of lectures mandated by statute is patronizing to the point of being insulting.

Are we really to believe that women finding themselves on the cusp of such a heart-wrenching decision haven’t already taken the time to consider their options?

The supporters of this legislation have good intentions. They’d like to deter women from getting an abortion. They’d like the woman to choose life.

Even, potentially, while partway into an abortion.

I’m sympathetic to the cause. Reasonable people, whatever their stance on the legality of abortion, would like the number of abortions reduced.

This bill won’t create any meaningful progress on that front.

The impact of this sort of policy will likely be marginal at best.

What it will accomplish is further inflammation of the already intractable debate over abortion as the zealots and profiteers on both side of the issue gather to denounce or promote it.

If North Dakota lawmakers want to reduce abortions, they’d do better eschewing provocative but largely symbolic legislation in favor of more pragmatic policies.

Like promote better sex education and access to birth control.

President Donald Trump has advocated for over-the-counter birth control. Love him or hate him, it’s an idea with merit.

At the state level, better funding for sex education programs and birth-control initiatives would go a long way. Funding for research into sex education and birth control would help, too.

Policymakers get stuck on the debate over abstinence-only education, but just about every North Dakotan will have sex at some point in their lifetime. Why not teach everyone how to have a responsible, healthy sex life?

That information will be useful whenever that person chooses to begin sexual activity.

So much of this debate focuses on what a woman with an unwanted pregnancy should or should not do.

Maybe it’s time to focus on how to help women, and their partners, stay out of that position in the first place.

You can’t get an abortion if you’re not pregnant.

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator.


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