“Safe, legal, and rare” abortion is detached from reality


by Cameron Smith

Editor’s Note: This article was first printed by and the Alabama Policy Institute. It is reprinted here with permission.

fetus baby abortionIn 1996, President Bill Clinton stated that “abortion should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare.” President Obama echoed that sentiment in 2010 when asked about his own perspectives on abortion. Sadly, the pro-abortion slogan of “safe, legal and rare” fails to accurately describe abortion in America.

Contrary to popular opinion, abortion is far from rare. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest available information, 1.212 million abortions were performed in 2008 compared to 4.248 million live births. In other words, the ratio of pregnancies ending in abortion to live births was more than one to four. Politicians continuing to argue that abortion is rare are flatly ignoring the facts.

Not only is abortion widely practiced in America, but recent events also raise questions as to how many of those are actually legal. National news media has been slow to shine its spotlight on the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia. Gosnell is an abortion provider accused of killing seven viable children by “snipping” their spinal cords with scissors as well as causing the death of a woman during a procedure.

Regrettably, Gosnell’s alleged “post-birth abortions” have been given credence as a potentially common practice. During testimony before the Florida legislature, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman was asked how Planned Parenthood would address a baby born alive as a result of a failed abortion. Her response was chilling.

“We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician.”

The implied conclusion is that a child born alive as a result of a botched abortion procedure is subject to infanticide. Abortion proponents may suggest that the occurrence of such a situation is rare, but in those cases, ending the life of a child accidentally born alive is nothing short of murder. How is the practice any different than proactively ending the life of a premature baby, some who have lived after being born as early as 21 weeks of gestation? Even abortion supporters who reject the idea that life begins at conception must surely believe that life begins at birth.

One might hope that abortion supporters who remain unmoved by its high occurrence and instances of illegal practice should at least support the need for safe abortions.

The horrific details about the conditions at Dr. Gosnell’s clinic, including the remains of 47 fetuses in containers ranging from a water jug to a pet-food container are shocking.

If the act of being born alive in America is not enough to bestow the rights of life, liberty, and equality under the law, then what is?

Alabama has also seen abortion clinic safety issues firsthand. The Alabama Department of Public Health recently filed a complaint against New Woman All Women Health Care in Birmingham for continuing to provide abortions even after it had surrendered its license to operate as an abortion center in 2012. The clinic was initially closed in May of 2012 for “serious violations” including two cases of overdoses sending patients to the hospital.


Inside an abortion clinic

To address those concerns, Governor Robert Bentley recently signed the Women’s Health and Safety Act into law in Alabama. The new law raises the safety requirements for abortion clinics, requires direct physician involvement in abortion procedures, and mandates that abortion providers have staff privileges at a nearby acute care hospital.

Abortion proponents rallied against the law as a veiled attempt to close the few remaining abortion clinics in Alabama. They contend the remaining clinics are “safe enough” to operate and more rigorous standards are unnecessary. In any other context, would “safe enough” be an acceptable standard for invasive procedures that our daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers might undergo? Opponents of the new law would have safety take a back seat to abortion availability.

The political left which is quick to champion civil rights in America seems to have become unwilling to fight for the most vulnerable in our society. In fact, abortion disproportionately impacts Americans who benefited most from the civil rights movement. For example, black Alabamians account for less than 27 percent of the state’s population but account for almost 60 percent of Alabama abortions.

The civil rights movement fought against laws and practices which treated people as less than human and denied them their rights for a future full of opportunity. Instead of supporting that proud legacy, the political left has adopted a stance toward abortion that is little more than a convenient slogan detached from reality.

If the act of being born alive in America is not enough to bestow the rights of life, liberty, and equality under the law, then what is?


Cameron Smith is policy director and general counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute an independent, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families. He may be reached at or on Twitter @DCameronSmith.

What is Live Action News?

Live Action News is pro-life news and commentary from a pro-life perspective. Learn More

Contact for questions, corrections, or if you are seeking permission to reprint any Live Action News content.

GUEST ARTICLES: To submit a guest article to Live Action News, email with an attached Word document of 800-1000 words. Please also attach any photos relevant to your submission if applicable. If your submission is accepted for publication, you will be notified within three weeks. Guest articles are not compensated. (See here for Open License Agreement.) Thank you for your interest in Live Action News!

To Top