Republicans are getting the abortion debate all wrong

It’s time for my party and other pro-life advocates to start focusing on the causes instead of the effects

As a pro-life conservative, there is nothing more frustrating than to watch how my party and its supporters have tackled the abortion debate. Yes, it’s even more frustrating than Donald Trump being my party’s nominee for president.

Lawmakers and advocates claim they want to end abortion. They introduce legislation to shut down clinics and proclaim their belief that life begins at conception, yet continue to fight a losing battle with both the public and the federal government instead of making any legitimate progress.

“Unintended pregnancy is the major contributor to abortion,” according to Center for Disease Control’s Abortion Surveillance report. “Because unintended pregnancies are rare among women who use the most effective methods of reversible contraception, increasing access to and use of these methods can help further reduce the number of abortions performed in the United States.”

It’s time for my party and other pro-life advocates to start focusing on causes instead of the effects. Stop harping about eliminating the abortion procedures themselves and instead look to eliminate the main cause of them: unplanned pregnancies. I’m not asking them to support the pro-choice movement, but instead to take concrete steps that will actually lower the abortion rate in this country.

As women in Ireland have shown, simply outlawing abortion does not stop women from getting them. Never mind the fact that the US Supreme Court has already ruled that women have the right to choose abortion, and thus outlawing abortion is beyond the power of our legislatures.

Instead of focusing on shutting down clinics or outlawing abortion, let’s focus on education—both at school and in the home.

At school, health classes should include sexual education, and I’m not just talking about putting a condom on a banana. Students should hear from medical professionals about the pregnancy and the risk of sexually transmitted disease. While it’s important they understand that abstinence is the only full-proof way to avoid getting pregnant, they should be educated about other birth control options and how to be safe.

This approach is not the same as saying to our kids “Go have all the sex! Go have sex with any and every partner!”—it’s giving them the tools they need to reduce risk when it comes time for them to make their own decisions. Whether that decision comes in high school, college or later in life, we have a responsibility to prepare our kids. And while we’re teaching them about the physical act of sex and its medical consequences, let’s also teach them about consent and healthy relationships.

Those discussions leads back to the importance of education at home. Conservatives, myself included, often talk about the importance of family values, but don’t seem to be very good at including them in the conversation about sex and abortion. I’m not saying parents who are pro-life or believe premarital sex is immoral to change their stances, I’m encouraging them to explain them to their children. Explain why you are pro-life, how finding out you’re pregnant should be one of the most joyful moments of your life, and just how miraculous having a child is. Don’t simply tell your children not to have sex, but explain to them the risks involved and why you think it’s imperative to wait until they are more mature and in a committed or even married relationship.

Instead of using “family values” as buzzwords on the campaign trail, let’s actually talk about them. Let’s encourage families to talk about their values and why they hold them, and advocate for parents to communicate with their children about these topics more. “Because I said so” might work when telling your toddler he can’t have a candy bar, but it’s not enough of an explanation for why sexual relations carry serious risk.

According to a Gallup poll in 2015, 50 percent of Americans identify as “pro-choice” and 44 percent identify as “pro-life” on the issue of abortion. While there exists a split about whether or not abortion should be legal and if a woman has the right to choose, no one likes abortion. Regardless of their beliefs about abortion, women don’t want to face unexpected pregnancies and the decisions that come with them. So why are we not working together to drastically reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies in this country?

If Republicans really want to eliminate abortion in this country, why are they going about it in the complete wrong way?

Yale University