This is a challenge to President Obama and Congress written in light of his commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame. President Obama has spoken clearly about his intention to adopt policies that reduce abortions. I want to show data that urge him and Congress to make that reduction happen, and I want to challenge President Obama to let us know him by his fruits, by his results.

Five years ago, I published a challenge to President Bush, pressing for policies that actually do reduce abortions. Because of our need for support when our own son was born with serious handicaps, and because of my wife’s work as a nurse in a high school supporting pregnant teenagers, we knew very personally that support for parents and babies is crucial for avoiding abortions. So I worried greatly when the Bush administration cut back crucial supports for mothers and babies such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program; Women, Infants, and Children; food stamps; and Pell Grants for college education. I predicted those cutbacks would increase abortions in 2002 among pregnant women who feared they would not have the support needed to raise their baby and keep their life together economically. I published two articles predicting that although abortion rates had decreased by 300,000 per year in the 1990s[1], the trend would reverse and abortions would actually increase in 2002.

The articles caused a national sensation. Many wrote appreciating the articles, but some defenders of the administration attacked my data and my prediction.

Now the official government CDC reports are published. As I had predicted, the number of abortions did increase in 2002. And though the abortion rates for teenagers declined from the mid-1980s through 2000, they actually increased from 2001 through 2005. Though the abortion rate for all women was going down dramatically through 2000, it stalled at 15 per 1,000 from 2000 through 2005.

The same is true of other consistent pro-life concerns. Though the infant mortality rate had been steadily decreasing for six decades, it actually increased in 2002, for the first time ever since data have been reported. Though the number of homicides decreased steadily from 23,438 in 1990 to 15,586 in 2000, the decline reversed and homicides actually increased-to 16,692 by 2005. When economic policies treat the poor unjustly, pro-life concerns take a big hit. The economy has been so devastated now that more pregnant women may conclude they cannot afford a baby, and have an abortion in 2009.

The Obama administration is expanding health care insurance for children and planning health insurance for all of us, is working to get the economy revived, and is supporting programs to curb unintended pregnancy. Obama’s proposed budget restores support for the working poor. Congress, we are counting on you to keep these supports in the budget you pass, and not to adopt laws that pressure pro-life hospitals and people to violate their consciences. Abortions reduced by 300,000 a year during the Clinton years, stayed flat or increased during the Bush years, and if they resume their reductions during the Obama years, then many consistently pro-life people like me will conclude that we should judge administrations not by their words but by their fruits.

[1] The official CDC report says 1,429,247 abortions occurred in 1990, but had reduced to 1,186,039 by 1997. They continued to reduce through 2000 by another 49,264 in the 46 states that reported. If the states that did not report had reductions proportional to the other states, then the total reduction was 309,000 per year by 2000.

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