In 1959, efforts to liberalize state abortion laws were mounting, and model legislation to legalize abortion in limited cases was proposed at the state level. Abortion advocates often cited as many as ten thousand illegal abortion deaths each year as reason for legalization. However, statements from those on the forefront of this movement reveal that this number was, at best, unsubstantiated and, at worse, purposefully exaggerated. 1
Another argument for legalizing abortion was that it would enable licensed physicians — rather than unlicensed amateurs — to commit the act. However, in 1960, before abortion was legal, Mary Calderone, former president of Planned Parenthood, wrote that trained physicians performed "90% of illegal abortions." 2
Recent public opinion polling indicates a majority of Americans support additional limits on abortion, including bans on late term abortions. They are not comfortable with the virtually unrestricted access it currently enjoys.
Most abortion laws are in effect at the state level. Since Roe and Doe, the US Supreme Court has granted states some latitude in regulating and restricting abortion. As a result, many states have passed measures mandating parental involvement in minor abortion decisions and uniform counseling with reflection periods. A federal ban on a specific type of late-term abortion, "partial birth abortion," was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2007.
Two of the leading reasons women give for aborting their pregnancy are economic in nature: they cannot afford a child, or they fear a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities. An unexpected pregnancy can be life-changing, yet these circumstances can be positively altered if the woman has sufficient support.
Abortion may also bring unexpected consequences for women in the form of physical or psychological complications. Studies show that women who have abortions face a number of possible physical complications, including difficulties with future pregnancies. Psychological risks after an abortion include depression, substance abuse and suicide.
As part of our ministry, Focus on the Family supports efforts to offer women tangible alternatives to abortion.
Women are certainly not the only ones affected by abortion. The preborn baby human at the center of the pregnancy has no choice, or voice, in the abortion decision yet, in most cases, arguably the most to lose. Biologically speaking, human life begins at the single cell stage (fertilization) when sperm and egg join. This is true whether the union occurs in the fallopian tube in a usual pregnancy or outside the human body through assisted reproductive technologies. There is no doubt that this growing entity is fully human and a member of the human family.
And that fact makes abortion a human rights issue. What human rights does the preborn baby possess? Focus on the Family and other pro-life organizations believe the right to life extends to these little ones. Human life — from fertilization to natural death — holds intrinsic and inestimable worth apart from how old you are and where you live.
At the same time, we recognize the difficult circumstances that can surround an unintended pregnancy and affirm the value of the woman's life that faces such a pregnancy situation. In these instances, we believe giving life to the child is always the best choice — for mother and child.
At Focus on the Family, we are dedicated to defending the sanctity of human life, and by human life we mean God's creation from fertilization to natural death. In the beginning, God created the earth and everything in it, including humans. As it says in Psalm 139:13, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb."
We believe that every human, in every condition from the single cell stage of development to natural death, is made in God's image and possesses inestimable worth. Abortion runs contrary to these beliefs.