In his column, Douthat suggested that liberal activists should spend more time focusing on economic issues to improve women's well-being rather than fighting against abortion bans. He compared abortion policies in the U.S. with those of other "wealthy, liberal and egalitarian societ[ies]," noting that France, Germany and Italy -- which "all ban abortions after the first trimester, and impose waiting periods as well" -- have lower abortion rates than the U.S. and have "abortion restrictions [that] are compatible with equality and female advancement." He stated that Ireland, despite a "near absolute abortion ban," ranks well on several different measurements of maternal health and economic opportunity for women. Also, he noted that the European and Irish abortion restrictions "coexist with universal health care," which Texas lacks, saying that "it might be argued, abortion can be safely limited only when the government does more to cover women's costs in other ways " (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/22).
~Abigail Aiken: Aiken -- a Northern Ireland doctor and doctoral candidate in reproductive health and demography -- writes that Douthat's analysis of the ways Irish women obtain abortions did not accurately depict "realities of their situation." Aiken continues, "In addition to the considerable struggles of meeting the cost of travel, accommodation and time off from work, there is no guarantee that passage abroad will be unimpeded by the state, a partner or even the medical profession." She notes that in many cases, Irish women have been prevented from leaving the country to obtain abortions and have been forced to take part in legal proceedings that "prolong[ed] psychological distress and seriously compromise[d] medical safety by delaying care." Aiken concludes, "If Ireland is the best example of what we can expect to see happen in Texas, the future is bleak" (Aiken, New York Times, 7/25).
~ Cecile Richards: In another letter to the editor, Planned Parenthood President Richards writes that Douthat ignored the realities facing women in Texas. Richards stated that studies have shown the most effective way to reduce unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion is by providing "access to information and affordable birth control," as do many of the European countries Douthat cited. Richards notes that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) "has done the opposite at every turn," opposing sex education proposals and restricting women's access to contraception and "other basic care." While Texas has the largest amount of uninsured women in the U.S., Perry and his allies have cut the women's health budget, forcing more than 60 women's health centers to close, particularly those in the state's poorest areas. Richards writes that "[d]ozens more health centers will likely close" because of the passage and signing of HB 2, "leaving women in rural areas with nowhere to go for a safe, legal abortion" (Richards, New York Times, 7/25).