Is An Abortion Ban Actually Pro-Life? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 8 2012 @ 4:58pm

A reader quotes me:

"I am pro-life, in as much as I find abortion deeply morally troubling" … unlike pro-choicers who think that abortions are just barrels of fun? You don't get to make words mean what you like, and the meaning of "pro-life" is well-established. If you don't want abortions to be illegal, then you aren't pro-life. If you think the government should allow women to decide whether they carry their pregnancies to term, even if you disapprove of their choices, then you're pro-choice.

Holding pro-choice positions while calling yourself pro-life so that you can pretend that your position is so much more nuanced than that of the rest of us pro-choicers (who obviously all just love abortions) doesn't make you deep and high-minded. It just makes you sound as if you've only listened to what pro-lifers have to say about pro-choicers instead of listening to pro-choicers themselves.

(Also, you might want to reread Roe; it didn't deprive America of "legal, safe and rare abortion, with increasing restrictions past the first trimester"; that's pretty much exactly what it established.)

What it effectively established – with no democratic input – was abortion on demand, one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the West, in one of the most conservative countries in the West. From that, so much of our culture wars follow. Another points to Blackmun's opinion (Section XI, about halfway down):

(a) For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman's attending physician.

(b) For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.

(c) For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.

I gather that subsequent legislation on the issue has rejected the trimester framework of the original Roe decision, but I'm not sure how Roe itself is contradictory to your characterization of the European position.

Another dissent:

The photo you are using for the abortion debate has got to go. That is a baby. I assume your ethical quandary transcends fetal age, but considering that even a pro-life website uses this photo to demonstrate "3 months": Your photo is pretty emotionally manipulative.

It is intended to be emotionally resonant. Another counters Marcotte:

I think that there may be some specious reasoning about the effects of banning abortions on the rate of abortion. I'm not denying that women will seek back alley abortions were it made illegal (or that those abortions are more harmful physically), but to say that the rate is higher in countries where it is illegal and to conclude that it would be higher in the US if it were illegal is fallacious.

The obvious reason is this: the comparison of abortion rates where it is illegal versus where it's legal is based on comparing developing and developed countries. I'm not surprised that abortion rates are higher in countries that are developing and poorer, even if it's illegal. But a real apples-to-apples comparison would require comparing similarly situated countries (vis-a-vis social and economic factors) that have divergent abortion policies. Only then could you maybe conclude that the effect of banning abortion has overall pro-life or non-pro-life effects.