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The Pragmatic Case for Legal Abortion (Part One)


Aug 26, 2016 / By: Michael Spielman
Category: Responses to Readers

If abortion is outlawed in the future, how will we care for the "extra" kids? Abort73 has a page dedicated to answering that question, and last week I posted the link to our Instagram profile. Not surprisingly, the reaction was mixed. Of all the comments made in defense of legal abortion, only one commenter stuck to the topic at hand—that is, the potential social impact of outlawing abortion. His basic assertions were as follows:

  1. Mississippi's state-level abortion restrictions provide a window into what an abortionless America would look like.
  2. Legally restricting abortion increases poverty and crime but does not diminish abortion.
  3. Federally outlawing abortion would not decrease its frequency but would cause an increase in crime, poverty, and unwanted births.

I call this the pragmatic case for legal abortion. Notice that it entirely avoids any discussion of right and wrong. In fact, the inferred assumption is that abortion is a necessary expedient. The author goes so far as to say:

I believe having a child is a beautiful thing… If we had no abortions in the US, I would be the happiest individual in the world. But restricting abortion isn't going to accomplish that.

When you think about it, this is a brilliant way to argue. It allows you to have your cake and eat it too—condemning abortion on moral grounds while supporting abortion on pragmatic grounds. I can picture this person sidling up to an abortion opponent and gently proclaiming, "Look, I want to eliminate abortion as much as you do, but this isn't the way to do it. Outlawing abortion doesn't work."

This is much the same argument that Martin Luther King Jr. ran into when dealing with white moderates. They professed deep personal sympathy for the plight of African-Americans, while staunchly defending the legal status quo. This isn't the right way to initiate change, Martin. You're just making things worse. Speaking from both sides of their mouth, they applauded Dr. King's principles while condemning his refusal to leave well enough alone. Sound familiar?

At the heart of the problem is an ethical miscalculation. The establishment in Dr. King’s day saw racism as a relatively minor evil. By their thinking, segregation was a necessary expedient for keeping the peace. In much the same way, the establishment today sees abortion as a minor evil. It too is deemed necessary for the maintenance of social order. According to such thinking, abortion is more akin to drunkenness or pornography than baby killing. It is regarded as a kind of second-level vice that should remain a matter of personal conviction.

This way of thinking showed up in a couple of the responses to our Instagram post. The basic sentiment was this: the “pro-choice” position is a happy medium because everyone gets to follow their own conscience. Everyone, that is, except the victims. Here’s the problem. Abortion is not a second-level vice; it's a first-level vice. Maybe the first-level vice. Abortion violently ends the lives of the most innocent and helpless members of the human community. That makes the pragmatic case in its defense entirely inconsequential. Raising children is hard and expensive, but these difficulties do not give parents the right to kill their children, no matter how expedient it might be for their financial future.

Anyone who claims to oppose abortion while simultaneously arguing that it should remain legal simply doesn’t grasp what a monstrous evil abortion is. When queried, the author I referenced at the outset revealed the following:

I'm firmly pro choice… I don't believe that life begins at conception… [When I say I want to see abortion eliminated], I mean the need for abortion, not the access itself… abortion should always be legal and easily accessible for any circumstances… The Constitution gives the freedom to everyone to behave how they want, within reason. Pushing a standard of morality on others isn't going to solve anything.

And there it is. If someone does not see anything wrong with abortion, what makes them a credible authority on eliminating it? If someone does not believe that life begins at conception (despite overwhelming biological evidence), why should we trust their judgment in regard to a responsible and ethically-sound abortion policy? Planned Parenthood has long argued that the best way to reduce the abortion rate is to keep it legal and unrestricted. But why should we believe them? They are a billion-dollar corporation that makes millions of dollars selling abortion.

We are rightly skeptical when Big Tobacco boasts of their commitment to reducing teen smoking. Why should we be any less suspect of Big Abortion when they assure us that the best way to reduce abortion is to keep it legal and use birth control. Birth control is another one of their revenue streams—creating a massive conflict of interests!

Abortion advocates like to talk about eliminating the "need" for abortion—or eliminating the “societal issues that cause women to have abortions,” but such claims are disingenuous. We already know the one single issue that causes nearly every abortion in the country. There is no mystery; it’s unmarried sex. Close to 90% of abortions in America are performed on unmarried women, and an unknown percentage are performed on married women who were impregnated by someone besides their husband. Abortion is the price we pay for our unfettered sex lives.

This, of course, does not sell well politically. It's much easier to engineer new stop-gap programs that only exacerbate the problem in the long run. Perhaps the most prescient response to our Instagram post came from Zach Collins. He writes:

It is impossible for children to exist without a mommy and a daddy; and the laws of nature and nature's God dictate that mommy and daddy are supposed to take care of their own offspring. It is not right for the pro-abort crowd to shirk personal responsibility on the grounds that "no one else will accept my responsibilities."

He's right. It is the responsibility of those who bear children to care for children. In those extraordinary circumstances where this is simply not possible, adoptive families are there to step in. This has been the case from time immemorial. The all-too-common assertion that it is the responsibility of those who oppose abortion to provide for its victims, should they be allowed to live, is entirely non sequitur. I've dealt with it before. The simple truth is this: abortion enables reckless sexual behavior. In the context of public policy, you get more of what you allow, and you get a lot more of what you subsidize!

If abortion were not an option, if abortion could not be used as birth control, couples would simply have to be more vigilant about not getting pregnant. Though they would never express it as such, the basic mantra for abortion advocates is this: ethics be damned, we need abortion! This is cognitive dissonance at its finest, which NT Wright describes as such:

Cognitive dissonance is what happens when people who badly want something to be true but are faced with strong evidence to the contrary manage to leap over the data that point the wrong way and become even more strident in announcing their claims.

In part two of this examination, I will look at the substantive claims set forth at the outset. Specifically, do laws against abortion really have no bearing on the frequency of abortion? And is increasing our national reliance upon sex-education and birth control the best way to reduce our abortion rate? By way of preview, the answer to both questions is "no." In the meantime, ask yourself this question. Even if we knew for certain that abortion spares society from some pragmatic difficulties, is the annual slaughter of close to one million innocent and helpless human beings a price we're willing to pay for a reduction in crime, poverty, and unwanted births? Or is this an example of the "solution" being infinitely worse than the problem?

Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. Subscribe to Michael's Substack for his latest articles and recordings. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.

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