Abortion: most people don’t like talking about it because it’s so divisive, so complex, and so hard for a lot of people to even take a stand on.
It’s also a topic that is disproportionately important to political races compared to the percent of the population Roe V. Wade actually affects.
It has once again become a hot topic among Republican hopefuls, although former George W. Bush aid David Frum wonders how much longer abortion will be a lightning rod.
Since I’ve never been much good at predicting the future (I’ll leave that to Frum), I wanted to broach a subject Frum touches on to start the article, namely, the current debate about what’s been dubbed “reproductive rights.”
Mitt Romney, for instance, was pro-choice…at least until he started being pro-life.
Herman Cain was pro-life, but anti-government involvement, now he’s on the “under no circumstances” train.
Rick Perry chastised Cain for holding that initial position, a stance Perry characterized as Cain wanting to have his cake and eat it too.
But Cain’s position is one plenty of reasonable people hold, “I don’t like abortion, but government doesn’t have the right to tell me what to do with my body.”
That part about government and your body would be true, except for it’s not.
Even a small-government proponent has to admit that the government has all kinds of control over how we treat our bodies. You can’t drink alcohol and then drive. OWI/DUI laws are government control of your body, but done so in an effort to protect the people around you.
In fact, you can’t even drive without glasses or contacts if you ought to be wearing them. When you think about it that way, the government can even take extreme measures like controlling your wardrobe choices, if it means making everyone safer.
We can agree laws like drinking and driving, or wearing one’s corrective lenses are necessary restrictions set by our government.
We clearly don’t agree about abortion.
The “reproductive rights” argument is strange, framed as a women’s rights issue. That’s like if a roofer and a carpenter build a house, you say ‘The roofer built that house.’
I have limited medical knowledge, but I’m pretty sure you need two sex organs to reproduce (assuming intercourse is how the pregnancy arose).
Why, then, does a woman have the “right” to terminate a pregnancy she shared an equal part in creating with another person, and with whom she equally splits the DNA in the fertilized egg?
To be sure, part of the the argument goes that since the women carries the unborn child for nine months, during which time the fetus requires literally everything from the mother, she ought to have additional rights.
The same flawed argument applies once the baby is born: she had to carry it, it still relies solely on her to survive, yet the law considers it murder to end that baby’s life once it is free from the mother’s body.
There is no underlying misogyny here, no attempt to undercut feminist movement principles, or reduce equality. The fact is, regardless of who is carrying the child, this is not an issue of rights by the mother.
No, the unborn child doesn’t have a name, nor does it have a social security number. It doesn’t even have consciousness.
But how does that differ from say an illegal immigrant infant? Or a 90 year-old Italian woman with dementia in an assisted living facility in America who never renewed her green card.
Neither of these people are citizens, they can’t speak, eat, think, or survive on their own without constant care. End their lives and you face 25 to life in prison.
End the life of your unborn child, all you face is some ridicule (maybe) as you leave the clinic from a couple of people holding signs.
A popular counter argument would be cases where the mother didn’t have an equal share in the pregnancy, or faces her own danger: Rape, incest, threat to the mother.
The first two, are the main legs of any reproductive rights argument because it undercuts the premise that the woman had an equal part in creating the unborn child.
According to an extremely comprehensive study 74% of women who obtain abortions do so because they couldn’t afford a baby, while just 13% cited concerns over their own or their unborn child’s health.
Furthermore, of the 1,160 women in the survey who gave at least one response, just one cited rape as a contributing factor to her desire for an abortion.
Given that rape is often under-reported, even if we assume it’s ten times more prevalent, that’s still less than 1% of women seeking abortions.
There are 150 million women in this country and there are 1.3 million abortions a year – that is less than 1% of women getting an abortion every year (Obviously that includes the millions of women who are too young or too old to carry).
One percent of 1% of women are raped and have an abortion. Thirteen percent of 1% have an abortion because of the risk to themselves.
Abortion is a lightning rod issue, yet effects only a tiny fraction of the population.
It’s not theoretically incoherent for someone to hate abortion but believe the government shouldn’t interfere with our bodies (Our president believes this by the way).
On the other hand, given the standards already set by government when it comes to restricting our actions for the safety of others, such a person may simply believe a woman’s so-called “rights” outweigh the life of her child.
Morally and legally, we allow few cases where a person’s rights outweigh someone else’s right to live. “I can’t afford it,” isn’t one of them.
Interestingly, a growing number of young people believe the government can and should interfere. In the early 1990’s, people 18-34 were by far the biggest constituent of people who believed abortion ought to be legal under any circumstance.
Since then, the number of young people has dropped nearly 50% as of 2009 and young people now view abortion less favorably than all of their older cohorts except those 65 and older.
Education, better forms of birth control, and now a new law forcing insurance companies to cover birth control, have likely contributed to this swing in people’s views.
Conservatives who hate abortion should like laws essentially subsidizing birth control by forcing insurance providers to pay for it. Conservatives love the ability to make choices, and the government’s role is to create an environment where making the best choice is easier not harder.
Liberals, just as fervent about pro-choice as conservatives are about pro-life, fail to see that being morally outraged over a law like this based on their own argument is illogical.
A fraction of the population find the need for this law, and a fraction of that fraction are the people liberals want to protect.
True enough, democracy is about protecting the rights of the minority, but there’s the rub. The vast majority of the people who utilize this law are not the “vulnerable minority” the left describes. It’s a group of people who made some risky choices and made a decision based on their convenience.
Even if we assume there is a right to something (and I’ve presented a counter-argument for why there is clear “right” in this case), those rights cannot come at the expense of other’s rights. That’s how democracy works.
Democracy should not be in the business of choosing the convenience of 1.3 million people over the very existence of 1.3 million others.