Few things reveal the worst aspects of American political life as effectively as the poisonous debate surrounding abortion.

This past Sunday marked the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the controversial 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States. With the anniversary came the annual marches, platitudes and sermons by politicians on both sides of the aisle, which do nothing to resolve the underlying problems abortion truly represents.

The pro-choice faction declares their opponents to be chauvinistic enemies of women’s rights — extremists who seek to oppress women.

Those who call themselves pro-life label their opposition proponents of infanticide and murder, and portray them as an almost bloodthirsty cult that relishes in death. One example is a 2006 book popular among the pro-life movement that labels the pro-choice movement as “The Party of Death.”

This venomous rhetoric damages our country, serving only to polarize the public and foster a climate of hatred that all too frequently breeds violence. Less than three years ago, George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions in Kansas, was gunned down in his church on a Sunday morning by someone claiming to be pro-life. His death stands as a tragic testament to the consequences of the hateful and divisive rhetoric surrounding abortion.

However, these violent consequences are only part of the problem in the abortion debate. What is even more striking is how divorced from reality the two sides are.

Both perspectives see the abortion issue from too narrow an ideological viewpoint, and each side obscures the dark reality of what abortion truly means for the United States. The issue of abortion is not a struggle for women’s rights against sexism or a battle for life against a “culture of death.”

Rather, abortion is a symptom of a broader underlying moral and economic catastrophe in our society that both sides in the debate largely ignore. Pro-life activists are correct when they condemn abortion as a representation of the ills of American society. However, they are wrong in their diagnosis of those ills.

To shed light on what the phenomenon of abortion truly represents, one must consider demographics. The Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organization that studies issues of reproductive and sexual health, has released reports tracking abortion rates across the country. What they have found is deeply troubling. Abortion in America is inextricably linked with poverty and race.

The studies by Guttmacher found that the relative rate of poor women receiving abortions is twice that of all women, and more than five times that of women 200 percent or more above the poverty line. Moreover, black and Hispanic women are significantly overrepresented among the women who get abortions, relative to their proportion in the overall American population.

Thus, the key to understanding and resolving the abortion issue lies in solving the underlying economic and racial issues that plague American society today. The tragic reality of abortion in America is that it reflects our society’s neglect of the poor and minorities.

Poor women find themselves in the position of needing abortions because they do not have the financial resources to care for children. Often, there is no father in the picture to help them. Moreover, many poor and minority women work jobs in the service sector that do not grant maternity leave, forcing them to choose between their jobs and their children.

Opponents of abortion rights would have us believe that outlawing abortion is the key to resolving the issue. Hence, they advocate for legislation restricting access to abortion, and seek the appointment of Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. However, the notion that simply outlawing abortion will resolve the issue is pure fantasy.

Another study by the Guttmacher Institute reveals there is absolutely no correlation between restrictive abortion laws and lower abortion rates. South American and African countries tend to have more restrictive abortion laws. However, those regions have the highest abortion rates in the world. In fact, the countries with the most liberal abortion laws, namely in Western Europe, North America and Oceania, have the lowest abortion rates.

Thus, abortion is a symptom of poverty, lack of access to contraception, inadequate sex education and neglect for women across America and the world.

If you’re pro-life, don’t blame the women or the doctors who perform them. Blame a society that neglects the women who seek abortions, forcing them into the desperate and tragic decision to either raise children they cannot afford or terminate their pregnancies.

Sam Blank is a senior in the College. IMPERFECT UNION appears every other Friday.

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