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Counting Our Hot Buttons: Abortion Numbers in Perspective

With the recent debate over federal taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood bringing the abortion debate back to the surface, it is sometimes useful to look at the numbers to get a little perspective on why this issue is such a large one. (All of these are estimates, and sources vary, but there’s no serious debate as to the scale of the numbers).

Number killed or missing in action in all wars in U.S. history: 1,343,812. Adding the wounded: 2,489,335.

Number killed or missing in action in U.S. wars since 1973: 12,387. Adding the wounded: 96,680.

Number of executions in U.S. history dating back to 1608: 15,269.

Number of executions in U.S. history dating back to 1930: 3,859.

Number of executions in U.S. history dating back to 1977 (after the Supreme Court lifted a decade-long moratorium): 1,099 through 2008.

Number killed in the September 11 attacks: 2,977.

Number of detainees waterboarded by the CIA under President Bush: 3.

Number of abortions in the U.S. since 1973: 53,310,843 through 2010.

Number of abortions per year in the U.S. since 1973: 1,402,917.

Number of abortions per month in the U.S. since 1973: 116,910.

Number of abortions per week in the U.S. since 1973: 26,979.

Number of abortions per day in the U.S. since 1973: 3,841.

Number of abortions by Planned Parenthood in the U.S. in 2009: 332,278, more than 900 per day, or 27.6% of all abortions in the U.S.

You know, there are a lot of issues I care about, as a conservative Republican. I don’t especially like having to draw lines in the sand over abortion, and if you’re reading this, even if you’re pro-life, chances are you don’t either. But it is useful at times to prick our consciences with the sheer scale of this atrocity, happening daily under our noses. Liberal activists and lawyers devote massive efforts every year to battling the death penalty – yet all the executions of the post-Roe era don’t even add up to a third of a day’s worth of the number of abortions. We agonize, and rightly so, over the cost in life of our wars – but the toll of abortion is equal to fighting the Battle of Antietam, or two Battles of Okinawa, every single week, or two entire Vietnam Wars every month. Our commentariat was racked with paroxysms of moral reproach over three prisoners being waterboarded, yet considers it gauche to even mention well over three thousand abortions daily, each of which destroys a biologically unique human being. (Your religion may override your regard for the science, but there’s no way around the fact that an unborn child has his or her own unique genetic code, the definitive scientific hallmark of an individual).

Numbers alone can’t make the moral judgments that constitute public policy for us. But they can certainly inform our sense of perspective. And looking at the number of abortions is a reminder that maybe, sometimes, we go too far in trying to make this just another issue.

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