The morality of abortion is an issue that splits America in half. In the 2018 Gallup Values and Beliefs poll, 48% of respondents thought that abortion was wrong.

At first glance, Andrew Yang does not sound like a pro-life presidential candidate. He is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination with a platform that states that “access to safe and affordable abortion services should be provided to all Americans.” [1]

On the other side, the pro-life argument is that human life begins at conception. What follows is that abortion should therefore be illegal because it is akin to murder. While the murder part is accurate, the illegal part is not. The sad truth is that even prior to abortion’s legalization by Roe v. Wade, abortions were common. But they were far more dangerous, often resulting in the woman’s death as well as the baby’s. [2] It is difficult to argue that two deaths are somehow more righteous than one.

And, critically: Bans on abortion have not been proven to reduce abortion rates.

In other words, ending abortion, in this world, was never an option. Not before Roe v. Wade, and not now. Instead, we can respect the beliefs of others and work together to reduce the number of abortions. It makes sense when you think about it: preventing actual abortions is the best way to save lives.

If you think a little harder, it becomes clear that Andrew Yang is the only candidate who could accurately claim to be both pro-choice and pro-life. Here’s what I mean: If you believe that abortion is wrong, as I do, then you also believe that our goal should be to reduce the number of abortions as much as possible. And that is where Andrew Yang shines.

First, it is important to look at the reasons why women get abortions in the first place. Understanding these reasons is crucial to informing public debate and policy regarding abortion. Some pro-choice advocates believe that the reasons that women get abortions are to save their lives or physical health, or in cases of rape or incest, or to avoid birth defects. The reality is that less than 1% of abortions are due to these “hard cases.” The truth is that over 99% of abortions are performed for social or economic reasons. [3]

Statistically, 74% of women end pregnancies because it would interfere with their education, work or ability to care for dependents. [4] For 73% of women, they could not afford the baby at the time. 48% of the time, she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems. The overarching theme here is that abortion is motivated by resource limitations, particularly by financial constraints.

Over 73% of abortions are motivated by

financial constraints.

Guttmacher Institute

About 75% of abortion patients are poor or low-income. [5]

Given women’s limited economic resources and existing responsibilities to others, women typically feel that they had no other choice. In other words, the vast majority of women who are having abortions are not making a “choice” to have an abortion. Instead, their lack of economic resources forces their choice and virtually requires them to give up the baby to an abortion.

Some pro-choice advocates ignore the fact that most women who have abortions, if they had the economic freedom to keep their babies, actually would. In other words, they are given the choice to have an abortion, but they are not given the choice to have the money that they need to actually support the child were they to keep him or her.

The pro-life vs. pro-choice debate tends to overlook the fact that the vast majority of women who have abortions don’t do so by choice, at least not entirely. Circumstances put them in a position where abortion is the least self-destructive option available. [Again], 73 percent of women who had abortions in the United States in 2004 said that they couldn’t afford to have children.

ThoughtCo.

If women are having abortions because they literally cannot afford to have the baby, then are they really free to choose?

Enter Universal Basic Income, or the Freedom Dividend. It is a policy that would guarantee every American citizen aged 18 and over a stable monthly income of $1,000.

With a stable monthly income of $1,000, women would have the economic means to care for their babies. If they are in a family with two adults, they would together receive $24,000 per year, putting them well above the federal poverty line even if they do not have a job to provide additional income on top of that. The vast majority of parents do work at a job, putting their economic standard of living well above the level needed to support a pregnancy and a child—but only with the Freedom Dividend.

$1,000 per month of guaranteed stable income would be literally life-giving for millions of women.

Andrew Yang

Furthermore, Andrew Yang often brings up the fact that the Dividend would empower millions of American women who are in abusive or exploitative relationships. Today, they are trapped in relationships because they do not have the economic means to care for themselves. The Freedom Dividend would directly provide economic freedom, making these women less vulnerable, and giving them more choices in moving out or finding better opportunities. It recognizes their value even as they do the unpaid work disproportionately done by women, such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for elderly relatives. [6]

So, it is possible to be both pro-choice and pro-life. In fact, this is the middle ground where the vast majority of Americans live, if they were to really think hard about what they believe and what makes sense. Even the Democratic Party has historically been aligned with this view, as back in 2004, they used to say that “Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.” (Sadly, they now state that the Democratic Party “strongly and unequivocally supports” abortion and no longer states that it should be rare. That is not in line with what Americans want.) [7]

The truth is that pro-life vs. pro-choice is a false dichotomy promoted by politicians and the media in order to rile up voters and get people energized for their cause. The professional politician’s goal is to inflame passions and drive supporters to the voting booths. The media’s goal is to get people’s attention and outrage, giving them more eyeballs and ad revenues. Many pro-life people have fallen into this trap, being driven to an extreme position by abortion opponents who believe that the only way to make progress for their cause is to ban abortion outright. While the simplicity and purity of this idea gets people excited, it would, unfortunately, have dire consequences: making abortion not less common, but more dangerous. This would be, in reality, a loss for the pro-life cause.

The reality is in between, with most Americans on the same side; the issue should not be so politicized. Set aside the ideology, and instead look at what makes practical sense and saves the most lives.

We, as Americans, should agree that the most important question is not whether abortion should be illegal, but: How can we best reduce the number of abortions that occur? I am certain that this is the most moral and righteous path to pursue: to cut down, in real terms, the number of abortions that happen.

The two most effective ways to decrease the number of abortions are to provide every woman with access to contraceptives and to provide financial, emotional, and structural support to individuals who are financially struggling and become pregnant—Universal Basic Income would accomplish this for many prospective parents.

Andrew Yang

No one knows exactly how many lives will be saved by the Freedom Dividend (Universal Basic Income). But given that:

  • 75% of abortion patients are poor or low-income
  • The federal poverty level is $12,060 for a single adult
  • The federal poverty level is $16,240 for two adults
  • The Freedom Dividend guarantees $12,000 per year for a single adult
  • The Freedom Dividend guarantees $24,000 per year for two adults

… it would not be a stretch to imagine that the number of lives saved could be well into the millions—far more than would be saved by making abortion illegal. And this would be much more humane, too.

In the end, this is a health issue that should be handled by doctors rather than legislators or politicians; and “uniquely among his fellow candidates, Yang has proposed ways to decrease the amount of abortions in the country, saying that contraceptives and financial support to impoverished pregnant women should be provided.” [8]

In the future, advancements in birth control technology might further reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. At some point in the 21st century, abortion may largely disappear, not because it’s been banned but because it’s been rendered obsolete.

The bottom line is that every American, even pro-life ones, can support pro-life policies like the Freedom Dividend while at the same time advocating for abortion to be safe, legal, and rare. With these principles in mind, you can vote for Andrew Yang with a clear conscience.

References:
[1] Right to Privacy/Abortion and Contraception, Yang2020.com
[2] Washington Post: When Abortion was Illegal
[3] Why Women Abort
[4] Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives
[5] Induced Abortion in the United States
[6] The Feminist Case for Andrew Yang’s Freedom Dividend
[7] How Democrats Lost Their Way on Abortion
[8] Abortion should be regulated by doctors, not legislators

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