Recognizing gay marriage will lead to increased abortion rates, said Washington, D.C., Lawyer Gene Schaerr in an opinion piece for the Daily Signal on April 17, titled “Forcing States to Recognize Gay Marriage Could Increase Number of Abortions.”
According to Schaerr, forcing states into recognizing marriages that are not gender based would make the social norms crumble. Schaerr says that this will happen because “biological bonding, partner exclusivity, and reproductive postponement until marriage will likewise crumble.”
In other words, upon recognizing same sex marriage as legal, children will learn that they don’t need a “mother (or father)” while monogamy disappears and premarital sex will run rampant, which will “increase the number of unmarried women and, hence, the number of children aborted.”
In short, because unmarried women have abortions at a higher rate than married women do, Schaerr concludes that legalizing gay marriage would therefore increase the abortion rate.
“Nearly 900,000 more children of the next generation would be aborted” because 1.275 million women would never get married after gay marriage were recognized, according to Schaerr.
To combat this from happening, the “Supreme Court would be wise not to set in motion” what Schaerr calls a “closely linked … short and simple casual chain” of increasing the number of abortions by recognizing gay marriage.
U.S. News & World Report‘s Peter Roff, who is against gay marriage, wrote to call Schaerr out on his linking “hot button political issues.” He said that linking abortion to gay marriage an “act of political desperation of the eleventh hour.”
Schaerr points to an Amicus brief (PDF) filed with the Supreme Court of the United States and the citations contained within as proof of his claims. A group of “100 scholars” wrote the brief, and they pulled data from the Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to back up their claims, as does Schaerr in the Daily Signal piece.
The Huffington Post states that the scholars put faith before facts.
“In the real world, as opposed to theory, we have had an increase in same-sex marriages, but a decrease in the number of abortions. For most people, that means the theory needs adjusting, but such is not the case for faith-based politics.”
While Schaerr notes that unmarried women currently have abortions at a higher rate than married women do, 28.9 per 1000 women versus 6.1 per 1000 women respectively, this information is not only outdated, but a misrepresentation of a National Center for Health Statistics brief on decreasing pregnancy rates published in 2013.
According to the cited NCHS brief, the abortion numbers are correct for married and unmarried women, but they are part of an overall assessment of pregnancy rates, not a study on abortion, which means they are not an “apples to apples” comparison to be used as proof of causation.
As such, the numbers do not represent the abortion rates in the way that Schaerr states.
Additionally, according to the CDC, which provided the numbers for the NCHS brief, the abortion rate actually decreased by 21 percent in unmarried women and 7 percent in married women in the years cited by Schaerr’s table.
According to the CDC’s most recent data from 2011, per 1000 births, 14.5 percent of married women obtained an abortion, while 85.5 percent were unmarried. This is equal to 43 abortions per 1000 live births for married women, while unmarried women had 303 abortions per live births.
According to the CDC, this is an overall decrease of 25 percent in the abortion ratio in unmarried women, and a decrease of 23 percent for married women, both from 2002 to 2011.
In fact, the Guttmacher Institute confirmed that the decrease in the 2011 abortion rate numbers meant that the abortion rate hit its lowest level ever since 1973.
According to the Huffington Post, the number of gay marriages increased during the same time that the total number of abortions in the United Stated has steadily declined. Schaerr neglected to mention any of these facts in the article or the brief.
While marriage rates are indeed declining in opposite-sex couples, Schaerr neglected to mention that the rates were already declining before same sex was recognized in the states depicted.
Additionally, considering that marriage rates are declining nationwide — even in states where same sex marriage is not legal — the decline in opposite-sex marriage rates in these states seemingly can’t be linked to the legalization of gay marriage.
Basing the assertion that recognizing gay marriage seemingly increases the abortion rate simply because of the decreasing opposite-sex marriage rates — rates that were already in decline, according to the Huffington Post — is presumably “scapegoating.”
Schaerr’s use of seemingly cherry-picked, outdated, and misrepresented data does nothing to win the fight over gay marriage or abortion for his side, but it does point out just what his side could potentially do win the argument.