Abortion is an issue at the forefront of American debate. The two prevailing arguments being pro-life and pro-choice, with pro-life supporters believing that a woman should never be able to have an abortion– even in the circumstances of rape, incest and health risks. Politicians who are pro-life are creating bills which express these beliefs. Multiple states such as Kentucky and Georgia have passed bills that ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, around six weeks of pregnancy, while Alabama recently passed the strictest abortion law in the country, banning the procedure with few exceptions. 

While the United states claims to be the most developed country in the world, it is doing nothing to protect mothers and infants. U.S. infant mortality rates (deaths under one year of age per 1,000 live births) are about 71 percent higher than the comparable country average. And American women are dying of pregnancy-related complications than any other developed country. Only in the U.S. has the rate of women who die been rising. 

Maternal Mortality Rates in the U.S.             Photo courtesy of NPR.org

These failures are in direct connection with America’s failing health care system. The United States is one of the only “developed” countries in the world without universal free healthcare. And the thing with universal healthcare is, it works– and it works really well.

If pro-life people are looking to lower the rate of abortion then free abortions and contraceptives are the way to go. Defunding and protesting organizations such as Planned Parenthood is actually counterproductive to their cause. More lenient laws on abortions have been proven to lower the rate of them occurring.

The Netherlands are a perfect example of this. Due to the Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1984, abortions are free and legal. Abortions can be performed up to 24 weeks after conception, and while they are considered illegal to perform after this, there is no provision under general criminal law that would hold the doctor responsible. Abortions after 24 weeks are only performed if there is a serious threat to the patient’s life.

Despite abortions being so easily accessible, the Netherlands has one of the lowest rates of abortion in the world. A contributing factor to this is that contraception is widely available and (aside from condoms) free of charge.

Abortions aren’t a debate topic in the Netherlands either. Abortion is not considered a political issue in the Netherlands and clinics are rarely (if ever) the site of protests or demonstrations by anti-abortion activists.

The United States should take a tip on health care from the Netherlands. The Netherlands are real life proof that free healthcare and abortions work to reduce the abortion rate. In lowering the rate of unwanted pregnancy, the U.S. should look to expand sex education as well as accessibility to contraceptive methods– it works.

Photo: Richard IJzermans via Flickr

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