Herald columnist Lloyd Omdahl’s recent column on abortion contains several errors that warrant a response.
First, Omdahl makes the ridiculously absurd assertion that “over 90% of the anti-abortion folks are not in life situations where they could be impregnated in rape or incest.” Depending on how the question is asked, about half of Americans consider themselves “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” but only 25% think abortion should be legal in all circumstances. According to Omdahl’s logic, that means that 75% of the population consists of males over 44 years of age. In case that blunder is not enough, a little research would have shown that women and men oppose abortion by almost equal percentages across all age groups.
Second, Omdahl concludes that abortion is solely a religious question merely because many abortion opponents have strong religious convictions about the issue. By engaging in such reductionism, he embraces the abortion lobby’s agenda. If the issue is religious, they claim, legislators should refrain from passing laws.
It is true that religious beliefs motivate many abortion opponents, but that is true for many issues, including immigration, care for the poor, health care for all, and civil rights. Religious motivation by some does not make an issue solely religious. In fact, Omdahl could look to his fellow columnist Rob Port for an example of an atheist who opposes abortion.
Even the Catholic position against abortion is not based on the “belief” that human life begins at conception. It is more accurate to say that Catholics accept the empirical fact that human life begins at conception. They “believe” that all innocent human life should be protected.
Third, Omdahl contradicts himself by repeating the all-too-familiar trope that governments do nothing to help teenagers avoid pregnancy and should support more contraception, despite the fact that, as he surely knows, people have different views about contraception policies that are motivated by different religious beliefs.
Omdahl calls for giving teens more contraception although he admits that he knows nothing about how many pregnancies occur among teenagers. If he had gone to the Department of Health’s website he would have learned that North Dakota has done a phenomenal job reducing teen pregnancies. It used to be that over 11% of all pregnancies in North Dakota were among teenagers. Today, that percentage is 3.5%. Most of these pregnancies occur with “adult teens,” that is, eighteen and nineteen-year-olds. Minors make up less than 1% of all pregnancies in the state. All this progress has occurred without the massive funding and influx of comprehensive sex education and contraceptive programs that Omdahl supports.
Returning to abortion, the vast majority, about 90%, of North Dakota women getting abortions are adults 20 years of age or older. Of the remaining 10%, 2% percent of the abortions are performed on minors. If their behavior mirrors the rest of the nation and the U.K., about half of these women were using contraception, but still got pregnant. More contraception is clearly not the solution to teenage pregnancies or abortion.
Instead, we should look at protecting unborn children and helping mothers and families, during and after pregnancy. The percentage of North Dakota pregnancies ending in abortion has dropped from over 10% to 7% or less over the last two decades. That is great news, but we can do better. Everyone, no matter where they stand on the abortion issue, should agree that no pregnant woman should ever be pitted against her unborn child.
Rather than spreading false information and promoting flawed and failed contraception programs, let’s focus on loving the mother and her child.
Christopher Dodson is executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, Bismarck.