Abortion opponents are walking in tall cotton these days. President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., promised to stop sending federal dollars to the nation’s largest abortion chain. Congress is poised to make permanent the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on the federal funding of abortion. Trump just nominated to the Supreme Court a committed originalist lauded by a multitude of pro-life organizations. It looks like Roe v. Wade and its progeny will soon be only one vote away from a well-deserved trip to history’s ash heap. Pro-life Americans are, with good reason, as optimistic as they’ve been in a generation.

But with the important gains comes a massive risk that the 48-point headlines will lead policy makers and the public to stop short of the end goal of making abortion unthinkable and unavailable by overestimating the impact of these milestones. As a result, we could potentially overlook critical opportunities to reach the core of the problem: a society that demands abortion.

Abortion will not end just because the Supreme Court throws out bad precedent and Congress stops subsidizing an abortion juggernaut. It will only end when culture is transformed to support women and men facing unplanned pregnancies and to value the dignity of its most oppressed class: the pre-born.

Consider, for instance, the potential impact of redirecting Planned Parenthood’s financial aid to the country’s 13,540 federally-qualified health centers and rural health clinics. Clients who typically visit Planned Parenthood for subsidized care will be better served by facilities that are not riddled with staff looking to peddle abortions so their clinics can meet an abortion quota or get an award.

But those community health centers, though they don’t have ulterior motives to push abortion, are not designed to provide resources beyond medical care. Are they equipped to address the multitude of social, emotional or material issues that lead women to seek an abortion? Presumably a great percentage of Planned Parenthood’s 323,999 abortion clients underwent an abortion because they truly believed that abortion was their best option given the circumstances. Is there any reason to expect those clients won’t seek an abortion just because they’re no longer going to Planned Parenthood for government-subsidized medical care?

Some speculate (albeit without a hint of analysis and while ignoring that there are over 20 health clinics for every Planned Parenthood location) that defunding Planned Parenthood would result in more abortions, because doing so would limit access to contraception and therefore result in more unwanted pregnancies. Even noted pro-life economist Michael New admits, addressing Texas’s 2011 decision to stop giving Planned Parenthood government aid, the data are unclear on whether that round of defunding led to a decline in the state’s abortion rate. Defunding Planned Parenthood will be an important victory, but we still must care for those 323,999 abortion-seeking women.

Similarly, while it’s hard to overstate the importance of overturning Roe, reversing those decisions alone will do nothing more than remove a judicial impediment to states passing pro-life laws. How many states will pass laws restricting or prohibiting abortion, and how many abortions would those laws prevent?

In 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, around 900,000 abortions were performed in the United States (estimating is tricky because California and several other states don’t report abortion incidence). Republicans control both houses of the legislature and the governorship or have a veto-proof legislative majority in 27 states. Around 346,000 abortions were performed in those states that year. In other words, 61.5 percent of abortions, or a total of 553,000 abortions every year, occur in a state where Democratic legislatures or governors can block pro-life legislation.

Public opinion polling on abortion also shows the benefit of overturning Roe and Doe is uncertain. On the one hand, the majority of Americans favor either restricting abortion to being “legal in a few circumstances” or making it “illegal in all circumstances,” and almost three in four favor at least limiting abortion to the first trimester. On the other hand, there are only 11 states in which a clear majority of residents oppose legalized abortion, and those states account for 64,405 abortions, or about 7 percent of the total. Support for legal abortion exceeds 50 percent in 28 states and the District of Columbia, including the abortion hotbeds of California, Florida and New York, and is nearly 50 percent in 11 other states. Those 39 states accounted for 836,000 abortions in 2012, or 93 percent of the total. While it’s likely many of those 39 states will enact some additional restrictions on abortion, it is clear that overturning Roe‘s abortion cases is only a small step on the way to ending abortion.

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Even if pro-life or Republican majorities are able to prohibit abortion in some states, that does not mean the abortion rate of those states will drop to zero. Abortion is constitutionally prohibited in Ireland, for example, but every year an estimated 3,400 to 4,000 Irish women travel abroad to abort their children. For comparison, 5,899 abortions were performed in 2015 in Alabama, which has a population similar to Ireland’s.

It’s not hard to imagine abortion-related travel agencies springing up in red states. In Europe, activists provide surgical abortions on boats and deliver abortion pills by drone. At Human Coalition, we recently had a client who purchased abortion pills from a drug dealer who sourced the pills from Mexico. We’ve also heard of women seeking to overdose on vitamins to end the life of a preborn child.

These data demonstrate that if the goal is to end abortion, overturning Roe and defunding Planned Parenthood are excellent starting points, but they are not the end-game. Based on our experience serving abortion-determined women and factoring in the number of women who have miscarriages, we estimate there are about 1.4 million women who actively seek out an abortion each year. This community is largely unreached and unserved by the existing pro-life community (as well as by government policy). Pro-life organizations must become effective at reaching these abortion-determined neighbors and addressing the circumstances that are driving them to seek an abortion.

Reaching abortion-determined women is tough work. More than 90 percent of our clients are abortion-determined, and our work is an emotionally grueling experience on a daily basis for our caregivers, since the majority of the clients they serve will go on to have an abortion. We’ve worked with pro-life organizations who became overwhelmed at the difficulty and expense of working with this type of client and explicitly choose to work instead with women who aren’t intent on abortion.

Serving any woman with an unplanned pregnancy is honorable work. But abortion-determined women, and sometimes their families and partners, are the ones we must reach to end abortion. These women and their very real, very complicated needs can’t be left behind in our rush to celebrate high-profile successes.

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Colin LeCroy is associate general counsel at Human Coalition. Az Rahlouni is the research and optimization lead at Human Coalition.

If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.

With Trump's order in limbo, states take action against sanctuary cities

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Legislation is beginning to bubble up in the states that would impose punishments on sanctuary jurisdictions.

By Todd Shepherd

02/12/17 3:11 PM

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