Marvin Olasky shares some key findings from his book, Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America (Crossway) in the current issue of World magazine. You may read his provocative article here: http://www.worldmag.com/printer.cfm?id=14857.
Olasky’s surprising discovery is that the rate of abortion relative to the population was higher in America on the eve of the Civil War than at present. Olasky asked what made the abortion rate drop from the middle of the 19th century until the 1960s, and this is what he found.
1. The number one cause for the decrease in abortions was churches and Christian organizations who educated and cared for pregnant women and their babies. This is noteworthy today, as both Democratic and Republican Christians seem to be increasingly aware that providing shelter, adoption, and better choices for pregnant mothers will do the most to end abortion. Olasky’s article demonstrates that this approach worked before, and it may well do the job again.
2. More controversial, Olasky found that while laws against abortion were not the main focus of the 19th century prolife movement, yet they did assist in the effort. Contrary to pro choice advocates who argue that laws against abortion will require us to throw many women in jail, Olasky discovered that 19th century anti-abortion laws were “almost never” used to prosecute women and only rarely the person who performed the abortion.
So why have the laws in the first place? Olasky argues that anti-abortion laws educated the people. They “did send a message of right and wrong. They forced abortionists to advertise in code, bribe policemen and politicians, and hire lawyers. Laws could not end abortion but it could reduce the butcher’s bill, just as laws against drunken driving today cannot end the practice but can save lives. Today, it’s still worthwhile to pass laws restricting abortion, but time and money spent on providing and promoting compassionate alternatives saves more lives.”
Here is my question: Should we work to pass anti-abortion laws with the intent to enforce them only against those who perform abortions, those who perform and those who have abortions, or like the 19th century, should we work to pass anti-abortion laws for their educational value, with little to no intent on enforcing them? Or should we forget about passing laws altogether? (not my preferred option).
On a personal note, I am grateful to Marvin Olasky for giving a shout out to Don’t Stop Believing in his review of recent books (p. 20 of the current issue of World). He included Don’t Stop Believing with William Craig’s new apologetic, Reasonable Faith (Crossway), under the heading, “Some books are always in season, because the poorly informed about Christ we’ll always have with us.” Amen to that.