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'If You Oppose Abortion, Don't Get One' – A Rebuttal

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

The issue of abortion has been front and center this week, due to the shocking leak out of the Supreme Court, which we discussed extensively – on process and substance – in this analysis. Setting aside the jurisprudential angle, shaping public policy on abortion is difficult because it entails the consideration of competing liberties within a fraught, personal, and highly emotional realm. People have complex and widely varied views on what the appropriate balance ought to look like in practice. What constitutes an unacceptable intrusion on a woman's bodily autonomy and integrity? When does an unborn human life deserve legal protections, including the right not to be ended?

As I've stated openly, transparently and unapologetically on numerous occasions, I lean in the pro-life direction on these questions – I'm more or less with the plurality of the American public, per the latest national poll – though I recognize the difficulties they present. People of good faith can disagree on these things. As we wade into the debate, including the debate about the debate, I'd like to respond to one "argument" that I find especially unhelpful, simplistic and superficial. It's been popping up in televised arguments and social media feeds all week, and its prevalence suggests it needs to be refuted. Here is my attempt at doing so: 

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I'd like to pose a few more questions on this issue, some of which may be uncomfortable to both "sides" of the debate (I'll just quickly note again that a very large majority of Americans believe that some abortions should be legally permitted, but the practice should be significantly limited and restricted, particularly as a pregnancy progresses): (1) For pro-lifers, how – literally how, logistically – could a first-trimester abortion ban, from the moment conception, be enforced by the government in a way that is not hugely and disruptively invasive in a free society? (2) For pro-choicers, given your emphasis on the rights of women on this issue, shouldn't it matter that large majorities of American women consistently support substantial abortion restrictions under the law? (3) And if you're interested in "codifying" Roe through legislation, would you support a national law that bans nearly all abortions after, say, 15 or 20 weeks, with the practice widely available prior to that stage? That comes pretty close to reflecting the existing (for now) legal precedent. More restrictive state laws would be scaled back to meet the new standard, but more permissive state laws would also be made more restrictive. Would you take that deal?

Or are you insisting upon the currently-introduced bill that would allow elective abortions, for any reason, up until the moment of birth? That goes far beyond "codifying Roe," and strikes most people as barbaric. (4) Pro-lifers, would you accept the same deal, even if it doesn't go as far as you'd like? (5) Nearly every Democrat in Congress has opposed recent legislation to end elective abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy. The United States is a global outlier, in that such abortions at or after 20 weeks are generally available. Do Europe's more restrictive laws reflect radical, misogynist, anti-choice extremism, which is how the US versions of similar limitations are often hysterically framed?

I'll leave you with one more thought: Another frequent tactic in abortion discourse involves dismissing what any male has to say on the subject because it's a women's rights issue. As I alluded to earlier, there is little "gender gap" on abortion polling, and a heavy majority of women favor abortion limits, so that seems relevant. Beyond that, this is not merely a women's rights question; it's also a human rights question. People are allowed to contribute thoughts to such discussions, regardless of their sex or personal identity. Straight people have all sorts of thoughts on LGBT rights, and they're entitled to those views, even if they themselves do not fall on the LGBT spectrum. Legislation and judicial rulings on such issues have overwhelmingly come from heterosexuals. So what?

Relatedly, men comprise the vast majority of soldiers who serve in active combat during wars, but that doesn't mean that women should have diminished say on the righteousness or conduct of a war. We agree on that, right? Can you imagine if a female senator spoke out against a war, and the response was, "pipe down, woman, you and your lady parts aren't in harms way, unlike the men on the front lines"? That would be ridiculous and insulting. Some have argued that of course abortion isn't mentioned in the Constitution – a fact raised by Justice Alito in his leaked majority opinion, which is apparently joined by a woman, incidentally – because that document was fashioned exclusively by men. Well, so was Roe v. Wade. If you're going to make arguments on abortion, make them. Don't expend tremendous amounts of time and energy trying to disqualify half the population from having meaningful opinions on a subject that affects our whole society and deals with human rights. 

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