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Return of the Scarlet Letter?

April 30th, 2010 Comments off

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Oklahoma officially moved back into the Stone Age with the recent passage of an abortion law that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and invasion of privacy. Oklahoma passed law requiring the names of women who have received an abortion to be placed in a public database, which is a gross violation of doctor patient confidentiality and current privacy laws. On the heels of its version of placing a Scarlet Letter on women’s blouses, the legislature outdid itself and came up with a law requiring women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.

In the 21st century, expectations of a kinder and gentler society are woefully misplaced. There is no concern for human life in these laws, in fact, it is a blatant disregard for it, because most of those passing these laws and therefore their constituency, are also antisocialism or Welfare! They are pro-birth and it ends at the point. Or does it?

Not Safe in the Water

It gets worse. Kansas recently adopted a bill that requires doctors to provide the state with more detailed information about the abortion they perform. This bill would allow family members to sue health care providers over late term abortions, meaning that ex-husbands, parents and even “kissing cousins” could come out the woodwork to block an abortion because they don’t like it.

These brutal and vengeful tactics if left on the books pushes abortion back into the alleys with less than professional operators, unsanitary conditions and will raise the rate of maternal deaths due to botched abortions. It won’t go away. The rich will do as they always did in the past—they make arrangements. Meanwhile, poor women are left to their own devices, including self-induced abortion.

The Rest of the Story

By almost any measure, the South is the most religious portion of the United States, but the story does not stop there. In fact, it is just the beginning. When it comes to religion, The South outdistances the “secular” and”Liberal”  northeast section of the United States by double-digit percentages. There is no argument that church attendance levels are higher in the “Bible belt” (the South and Midwest) than in the Northeast and West.[1],[2]

The Rest of the Story

Being such a religious state one would expect Oklahoma to have lower levels of everything the Religious Right complains about. Is that the case? Absolutely not! In fact, nearly the opposite is true as statistics reveal that the verbal shrapnel coming from the mouths of Southern Christian  Republican leaders is largely a case of misrepresentation.

Abortion

Since this is a movement kept alive by the Christian Right, a look at Christianity’s role in abortion should undergo examination and the results aren’t pretty, at least for card carrying Christians.

  • Of those receiving abortions in the United States, 70% are Christians.[i]
  • Forty-three percent of women receiving abortion are Protestants and twenty-seven% are Catholics.[ii]
  • One out of six abortion patients describes herself as born-again or an evangelical Christian. [iii]
  • More than one third of born-again adults (33%) say that abortion is a morally acceptable behavior. [iv]
  • Those professing no faith make up 22% of abortion patients and are only 16% of the population.[v]

Ironically, almost a third (30%) of all U.S. abortions takes place in the states of the Old Confederacy, of which Oklahoma is one, the most religious portion of the country and also the home of the so-called Religious Right.[vi]

It sounds like the choir is hard of hearing because as the number suggest, the preaching is ignored. Many Christians that wind up at an abortion clinic end there precisely because of religion. Rather than face the religious judgment of family and friends, many women opt for the abortion clinic.

Forty-six percent of women having abortions did not use contraception during the month they became pregnant. This group includes “impulse sex,” meaning that person did not expect sexual intercourse. More than four-fifths of pregnancies to teenagers are unintended and account for more than one in five unintended pregnancies nationwide.[i] Large portions of this number came from religious backgrounds opposed to teaching contraception.[ii]

As the statistics show, despite the shrillness of the debate, one thing is clear: Christians use abortion services more than any other group in the country.

Just Getting Started

Oklahoma ranked 14th highest among all states and the District of Columbia for the percentage of birth that were to unmarried women.[iii] For 2007, there were 22,703 births to unmarried women in Oklahoma, an increase of 2.8 percent from the previous year, and 33.3 percent higher than the number reported in 2000 (17,026) [iv] The total number of births to unmarried women reported for Oklahoma in 2007 was 4.7 times higher than the number reported in 1975 (4,826). [v] More than 4 in 10 births in 2007 were to women who were not married. The percentage of births to unmarried women was 41.3 percent in 2007, rising from 34.3 percent in 2000 and 11.4 percent in 1975. [vi] In 2007, the rate of births to unmarried women was 61.7 births per 1,000 unmarried women in the childbearing ages 15-44 years. The rate has risen 4.1 percent from 2006, when the rate was 59.2 births per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44 years, and more than 20 percent since 2000, when the rate was computed to be 51.2 births per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44 years. [vii] Maybe itwas an anomaly?

Keep Going

Divorce is more common among “born-again” Christians than in the general American population. The highest divorce rates in the country are found in the “Bible Belt.” The data showed that the highest divorce rates were found in. “Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma round out the Top Five in frequency of divorce. The divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50% above the national average” of 4.2/1000 people. According to an Associated Press report, ‘the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50% above the national average of 4.2 per thousand people.  By comparison nine states in the “liberal” Northeast were among those with the lowest divorce rates: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.” [i]

Murder They Say

When it comes to killing living breathing people, the South wins the gold, silver and bronze. The states with the highest murder rate also came from the South and Oklahoma didn’t miss out on these real killings. In fact, Oklahoma manage d to come in at respectable No. 9 in the top ten (1 Louisiana 2.53, 2 Alaska 2.44, 3 Wyoming 2.33, 4 Arkansas 2.29, 5 Nevada 2.23, 6 Alabama 2.22, 7 New Mexico 2.21, 8 South Carolina 2.04, 9 Oklahoma 2.03 and 10 Arizona 1.92) The number represents killing per 1,000. All Red states fill the top ten for homicides of female victims. There is no shock here as the red states while leading the nation in religiosity, continually have high rates of murder outdistancing others areas of the nation targeted as negative because of their secularity, but with far lower murder rates.

What Next?

Clearly, there is a lot preaching but little practice in Oklahoma. The list of Southern pathologies goes on and gets worseas the South leads the nation in teen and out-of-wedlock pregnancies. The South and traditional “red” states lead the nation in cases of aggravated assault and forcible rape.[7] Sadly, saying one thing and doing another is par for human behavior, but when claims of superiority surface it is necessary to have the house in order because such behavior sends an invitation for visitors to come look. Clearly, religion has little to no affect in modifying human behavior in the South. In fact, it seems just the opposite is true as educational attainment is lower in the than the rest of the nation. The south leads the nation in the least number of college graduates and has the lowest number of high school graduates over 25 years of age with Texas ranking the lowest.[8], [9]

With the passing of new health care legislation, it is important to view the areas of the country most in need of healthcare reform. Of the fifteen states with the worst health in the United States, 14 are Red states—those that opposed reform. Interestingly, according to a new Gallup poll, of the 25 states with the greatest percentage of uninsured residents, all but three are in the South or the Midwest. Again, the same states voting against healthcare reform. The infant mortality rate in the south is the highest in the nation while the lowest rate is in the highly secular New England States. Contributing to the health crisis in the country, nine of the top ten states with the most obese residents are in the South.

The south has the nation’s highest rate of poverty, with Mississippi and Louisiana having the first and third highest rates, respectively.[10] Average household incomes are lower in the South. For example, Oklahoma and Arkansas rank 46th and 47th in levels of income for the United States.

Abortion History

In the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s, it is estimated that annually 200,000 to 1.2 million women had illegal abortions under unsafe conditions.[xiii] The number of illegal abortions performed each year in the United States varies, but the large death toll from these procedures stood by itself. Despite improvements in the safety of abortion, as recently as 1965, illegal abortion still accounted for an estimated 201 deaths—17% of all officially reported pregnancy-related deaths that year. Epidemiologists believe the actual number was likely much higher, but most deaths were officially attributed to other causes, to protect women and their families.[xiv],[xv]

A woman could obtain a legal abortion by getting the approval of a hospital committee established to review abortion requests, but it was an option available only to the rich and well-connected. Less affluent women had few alternatives aside from dangerous and illegal abortion.[xvi] According to a study of abortions performed at a large New York City hospital from 1950 to 1960, the incidence of abortion was much higher among patients with private physicians than among women without their own doctor.[xvii] Low-income women found themselves admitted to the hospital for post abortion care following an illegal abortion.[xviii]

Abortion Today

Abortion deaths in the United States dropped to 8 a year compared to nearly a thousand in 1950.[xix] Abortion was a leading cause of maternal mortality in pre-Roe America, and it remains so today in many developing countries in which abortion is illegal. The lowest abortion rates in the world—less than 10 per 1,000 women of reproductive age—are in Europe, where abortion is legal and available.[xx] The highest rates of abortion occur in countries that severely restrict abortion like Nigeria, Mexico and Brazil.[xxi] In the United States where religion is strong, abortion is highest compared to other industrialized countries.

Abortion certainly splits the United States at the voting box, but research shows that evangelicals are just as likely to seek abortions and that many are two and three time visitors. Perhaps publishing the faith of those receiving abortion might help make the hypocrisy apparent, but if one thing is apparent in all of this, those in-favor of the punitive and vengeful legislation are absolutely blind when it comes to the obvious that they have met the enemy and it is them.


[i] U.S. divorce rates: for various faith groups, age groups and geographical areas, http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm


[i] The Landscape of Abortion, http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=2

[ii] The Landscape of Abortion, http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=2

[iii] The Landscape of Abortion, http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=2

[iv] The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2008 & Women Who Have Abortions, National Abortion Federation

[v] The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2008 & Women Who Have Abortions, National Abortion Federation

[vi] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007

[vii] Who has abortions? Not just desperate teens, Associated Press, David Crary, January 20, 2008

[viii] Abortion in the U.S., Guttmacher, 1993.

[ix] Abortion Facts – United States, AbortionRecovery.org, 2007

[x] The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2008 & Women Who Have Abortions, National Abortion Federation

[xi] An Overview of Abortion in the United States, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH) and the Guttmacher Institute, January 2008

[xi] An Overview of Abortion in the United States, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH) and the Guttmacher Institute, January 2008

[xii] Abortion Recovery International, Abortion Facts – United States, March 31, 2005

[xii] Abortion Recovery International, Abortion Facts – United States, March 31, 2005

[xiii] Tietze C and Lewit S, 1969, op. cit. (see reference 11).

[xiv] AGI, 1990, op. cit. (see reference 18), p. 3.

[xv] Tietze C and Lewit S, 1969, op. cit. (see reference 11).

[xvi] Tietze C, The effect of legalization of abortion on population growth and public health, Family Planning Perspectives, 1975, 7(3):123–127.

[xvii] Hall RE, Therapeutic abortion, sterilization and contraception, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1965, 31(4):518–532.

[xviii] Burnhill MS, Estimating the number of patients hospitalized after an induced abortion by demographic analysis of hospitalized abortion patients, in: Hasegawa T et al., eds., Fertility and Sterility, Proceedings of the Seventh World Congress, Tokyo and Kyoto, October 17–25, 1971, Amsterdam: Excerpta Medica, 1973, pp. 389–392.

[xix] Bartlett et al., 2004 (1988–1997 data)

[xx] An Overview of Abortion in the United States, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH) and the Guttmacher Institute, January 2008

[xx] An Overview of Abortion in the United States, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH) and the Guttmacher Institute, January 2008

[xxi] Boonstra, 2006


[i] An Overview of Abortion in the United States, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH) and the Guttmacher Institute, January 2008[i] An Overview of Abortion in the United States, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH) and the Guttmacher Institute, January 2008

[ii] Abortion Recovery International, Abortion Facts – United States, March 31, 2005[ii] Abortion Recovery International, Abortion Facts – United States, March 31, 2005

[iii] Births to Unmarried Women in Oklahoma, 2007, Paul H. Patrick, DataBrief, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Health Care Information, March, 2010, http://www.ok.gov/health/documents/HCI_DB-March%202010.pdf

[iv] State and local per-capita welfare spending, FY2005-2006, Public Policy Institute Analysis of Census Bureau State and Local Government Finances: 2005-06, http://www.ppinys.org/reports/jtf/welfarespending.htm

[v] State and local per-capita welfare spending, FY2005-2006, Public Policy Institute Analysis of Census Bureau State and Local Government Finances: 2005-06, http://www.ppinys.org/reports/jtf/welfarespending.htm

[vi] State and local per-capita welfare spending, FY2005-2006, Public Policy Institute Analysis of Census Bureau State and Local Government Finances: 2005-06, http://www.ppinys.org/reports/jtf/welfarespending.htm

[vii] State and local per-capita welfare spending, FY2005-2006, Public Policy Institute Analysis of Census Bureau State and Local Government Finances: 2005-06, http://www.ppinys.org/reports/jtf/welfarespending.htm

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