Rise in Abortion Rate Among U.S. Poor Raises a Warning

More Support Needed, Says Bishops’ Spokeswoman

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WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 13, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The rise in the abortion rate among low-income women means that unwed mothers need financial and emotional support — not more contraceptives, says a U.S. bishops’ spokeswoman.

Cathy Cleaver, director of planning and information for the bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat, was commenting on a report by the Alan Guttmacher Institute that showed a sharp decline in the nation’s abortion rate.

The report released last week by the Planned Parenthood affiliate noted an 11% drop in the abortion rate in the latter 1990s, from 24 abortions per 1,000 women in 1994, to 21 abortions per 1,000 women in 2000.

“We can only hope,” Cleaver said, “that the decline reflects a growing national trend away from the culture of death epitomized by legalized abortion, and toward a culture that welcomes every human life and respects the dignity of all women.”

Yet, the Guttmacher report also noted a marked increase in the rate of abortions for lower income women. Cleaver challenged those who blamed this increase on a lack of access to contraceptives.

“Contraceptives have never been so widely available as they are today,” she said. “It makes no sense to cite lack of access as a reason for the rise in abortion among lower-income women.”

“Rather than speculate,” she added, “one might look to the Alan Guttmacher Institute’s own reports about the main reasons women turn to abortion — 21% cite financial reasons.”

“Women facing an unintended pregnancy want financial and emotional support; it is likely that lower income women feel this lack of support even more acutely,” Cleaver said. “What these numbers tell us is that we must redouble our efforts to provide resources and support to those women most in need.”

Meanwhile, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua has urged members of the U.S. Senate to support the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, warning of “a growing nationwide effort to attack the conscience rights of Catholic and other health care providers.”

The House of Representatives approved the act Sept. 25. The legislation is endorsed by many pro-life, religious and medical organizations, and President George W. Bush promised to sign it if it passes Congress.

“Passage of S. 2008 is urgently needed,” said Cardinal Bevilacqua, chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, wrote to the Senate last Tuesday.

Citing examples of the threat to freedom of conscience, Cardinal Bevilacqua noted that an Alaska court recently forced a community hospital to provide elective late-term abortions contrary to its policy. In another case, abortion advocacy groups urged the state of New Jersey to require a Catholic health system to build an abortion clinic on its premises, to serve what they see as a right of “access” to abortion.

“S. 2008 addresses these problems […] by clarifying the scope of a nondiscrimination statute that both House and Senate overwhelmingly approved in 1996,” Cardinal Bevilacqua wrote. “The current law protects ‘health care entities,’ including medical residency programs, from being forced by government bodies to provide abortions or abortion training.”

The cardinal’s letter is available at www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion/andasen.htm.

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