The scale of the human tragedy of abortion in New York City demands action. But what can we do? In such a large city the task can seem daunting, but we must do what we can.
First, we have to make sure that women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy have the help they need if they choose to carry their babies to term. We cannot accept a state of affairs in which a woman feels that she has no choice but to abort her baby.
Second, we need to do what we can to empower women and couples to avoid unplanned pregnancies. We have been teaching our children for two generations that condoms and hormonal contraceptives will protect them from unwanted pregnancies. But two generations later, here in NYC well over half of pregnancies are unplanned. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 54% of women who obtain an abortion were using some form of contraceptive during the month in which they conceived.1 It is time to rethink the condoms-and-pills approach to avoiding unplanned pregnancies. Maybe it is time to reassert the simple fact that the last few generations seem to have tried to deny: sex makes babies. The fact is, sex is an extremely powerful natural force, not easily hemmed in. Contraceptive methods will always fail some percentage of the time. The unplanned, unwanted pregnancies which result keep our abortion rates so high.
Some say it is unrealistic to expect young people to abstain from sex when they are not prepared to take responsibility for the potential consequences. Challenging it certainly is. But if we think we can’t expect young people to refrain from sex, why do we think we can expect them to use a contraceptive method consistently and effectively? We can choose the challenging path, or we can resign ourselves to high rates of abortion, STI’s and family breakdown.
Finally, we need to strengthen family and community support systems which can help young parents and families make their way through life’s challenges. We need to strengthen church and community based marriage education, preparation and enrichment. We need to provide women and families with knowledge-based methods of achieving and avoiding pregnancy.
If all of us, individuals, families, faith communities and community organizations, take a look around our neighborhoods to see what we can do to address New York City’s high abortion rate, little by little we can bring the numbers down.