Monday, February 27, 2012

TIM ROHR TESTIMONY RELATIVE TO BILL 415-31


TIMOTHY J ROHR
PO BOX 9001, AGAT, GU 96928
timrohr.guam@gmail.com

February 27, 2012

Honorable Vicente C. Pangelinan
Suite 101 Quan Building
324 W. Soledad Ave.
Hagåtña, Guam  96910
Ph.: (671) 473-4236/7
Fax: (671) 473-4238
e-mail: senbenp@guam.net
Chairperson: Committee on Appropriations, Taxation, Public Debt, Banking, Insurance, Retirement, and Land


RE: TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF BILL 415-31 - ACTO PARA MA SAPOTTE I FAMA’LAO’AN YAN PARA MA SATBA I FAMAGU’ON


Greetings Senator Pangelinan:

I write in support of the intent of Bill 415-31. I concur with the author of the bill as per the Findings and Intent that “more must be done to reduce the abortion rate by helping and supporting pregnant women.” I support the intent of the bill and would ask that your committee consider the following concerns.

ARTICLE 1: ESTABLISHING A FOUNDATION

The bill proposes the establishment of a new foundation to oversee and coordinate this effort. Before proceeding, may I recommend a thorough study and evaluation of existing services which already address or could address the needs of pregnant mothers as expressed in Bill 415-31.

It may be that such needs could be more easily addressed through the private organizations that already do this work than the establishment of a wholly separate entity that could put existing services in competition for charitable dollars with the newly proposed entity.

If said private organizations do not address the concerns to the satisfaction of the intent of Bill 415, the possibility of assisting these organizations to expand their services should first be explored. It may be that they are fundamentally better positioned, staffed, and equipped to address said concerns but are not yet able to fully address them due to lack of funding or the legal and social recognition which proper legislation might confer.

I understand that Vice-Speaker Cruz stated on a local radio show that he had already approached several of these private organizations with the ideas proposed in Bill 415-31 but did not receive their support. If so, I would ask Vice-Speaker Cruz to identify these organizations so that they can be re-approached. They may be more willing to entertain the idea if there is a greater source of assistance and significant legislative sanction.

ARTICLE 2: PREGNANCY PREVENTION

As regards the prevention of unintended pregnancies, I detect a presumption in the bill that most unintended pregnancies occur among teens. As you can see from the abortion reports provided by Guam Medical Records, teens are the least likely demographic to seek an abortion. At the same time, out-of-wedlock births are very high among teens. I believe the figure is 1.5 times the national average.

Interestingly, It has been proposed that the reason for the phenomenon is not a lack of education or access to birth control, but that these days teens intentionally get pregnant, i.e. they want a baby. As a former high school teacher I can vouch for that theory.

What once invoked a social stigma (teen pregnancy) seems to have been inverted and now invokes the opposite. A pregnant teen seems to be envied by her peers, at least many of them. And of course our system of “rewarding” an out of wedlock pregnancy with government assistance does little to discourage more out-of-wedlock pregnancy. In fact, as you are aware, for many unwed mothers, another child is the only way to increase their income.

Given this phenomenon, simply providing more knowledge about how not to get pregnant will be of little effect, and before we pass legislation to promote it, we should first examine the phenomenon of intended unwed pregnancy and seek to understand why it is growing.

Nationally, the phenomenon is so widespread that it has moved beyond the moral debate and has been taken up by economists due to the enormous economic impact of out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Out-of-wedlock births are now estimated to be 40% of all births despite easier and cheaper access to birth control and abortion. In fact, notwithstanding particular instances to the contrary, there is a direct corollary between increased access to birth control and abortion and an increase in out-of-wedlock pregnancy in spite of its illogic.

Nobel prize winning economist George A. Akerlof thoroughly examines the phenomenon  in a study published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics (May 1996) entitled “An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States.” (I can send the report to you if you so desire.)

Akerlof essentially traces the root of the phenomenon to the destigmatization of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and its subsequent effect on male behavior given that marriage to the female, whom the male impregnates, is no longer expected.

In short, Akerlof proposes that access to contraception and abortion have, by default, in making pregnancy and birth the absolute choice of the mother, has consequently liberated the male from any sense of traditional responsibility. And indeed, as you know, should the male assume that responsibility by marrying the woman he impregnated, it is likely that government assistance to the mother would be diminished or withdrawn - a clear disincentive.

All this is to say that we should look before we shoot. It’s not that attempts at deterring pregnancy have not already been tried, they have. Contraception, abortion, sex education have been increasingly liberalized and made available for decades and at earlier and earlier educational stages. And we now have a 40% out-of-wedlock birth rate to show for it. Simply mandating greater education without further study is not only a questionable solution, it may effect the opposite of its intent.

ARTICLE 3: SAFE HAVEN

I am wholly in support of the Safe Haven portion of the bill with the exception of limiting such Safe Haven for infants 30 days old or less. I believe expert input from the fields of psychology and medicine and perhaps law enforcement is needed to determine an age limit.

I also wholly support the enhancement to the existing Abortion Report Law in Section 2 requiring “Reason(s) the mother intends to abort the pregnancy...”


ADOPTION

And finally, I urge the Legislature to examine the bureaucratic and legal aspects of the adoption procedure. I am told by those engaged in assisting those who are desirous to adopt that the procedure is lengthy, costly, and often leads to disappointment amongst prospective adoptive parents, many of whom have waited as much as five years to adopt a child.

ONE LAST NOTE

While there is nothing in the abortion reports from Guam Medical Records to definitively substantiate this hypothesis, there is much from an historical perspective of abortion to support the belief that the overwhelming reason for abortion is not poverty or a lack of education, but to cover for illicit affairs.

Marvin Olasky in “Abortion Rites in America” traces the history of abortion from the landing of the Mayflower forward. And during times when adultery could invoke the death penalty it was natural why many would desperately want to cover their sexual tracks.  Of course the death penalty for adultery is no longer an obstacle to adulterous affairs, but the public stigma is still very much present, not to mention the prospect of a vengeful spouse.

If one examines the abortion reports from Guam Medical Records one can easily see that the majority of abortions are procured by persons “old enough to know better”, 43% of whom were married.

Today, the infidelities don’t even have to be between married people, they often occur between sexual partners who have no expressed legal commitment. A personal friend, and adoptive father of a child that survived an abortion, recounted how his adopted daughter was aborted by the mother to avoid discovery of her pregnancy as her boyfriend, who was not the father of the child, was returning home from a military deployment earlier than expected.

I don’t think we need any official studies to verify that infidelities of various degrees are the cause of a significant number of abortions. I mention this not because we can do anything about this legislatively, but to bring this fact to mind before we expend resources on programs that not only do not address the real problem, but may, unwittingly, exacerbate it.

In any event, Bill 415 provides us an opportunity to engage these matters and corporately seek real solutions.

Thank you for your consideration of my concerns. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the above contact information.



Timothy J. Rohr
Resident of Agat
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...