Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Thinking Critically about Abortion

While I have solicited discussion on a principled analysis of the abortion issue from abortion advocates such as Feminist Blogs and others, it is no surprise that we have not had such a debate among policy opponents. We are divided deeply on this issue, but not on principle for the principle of the wrongness of abortion is very clear. We are divided between those with deeply held convictions and those with deeply felt wants and needs.

There will be no resolution of the drives between opposing forces by focusing only on the ethics of abortion. However, we can move forward by simultaneously providing remedies for the underlying anxieties while also maintaining the integrity of the debate, i.e. to frankly address the needs of those facing the burden and challenges of bearing an unplanned pregnancy.

While there are methods of prevention that can still be explored, what is remarkable to me is that our society does not ameliorate those costs associated with pregnancy and child birth which might be lessened. For example, should not rape and incest victims be financially compensated by society for bearing to term? Why does it cost more to a woman to deliver a child than to destroy it? Why don't we provide free daycare for working mothers?

There is a trace of cynicism that marks our refusal to address these inequities while recognizing the wrongness of the carnage that the inequities induce. Yes, women should be responsible for the acts that lead up to the pregnancy, but so should the men. Here again our society is systematically unjust by neglect if not by design.

There is a way ahead in the abortion debate. We ought not fear to commit ourselves to its solution. After all of the demagoguery on the issue, there remains two simple questions that the entire abortion debate revolves around:

1. In our democratic society, do all persons have equal intrinsic rights (we are especially concerned here with the right to life--the most fundamental of all rights)?

2. When is a person a person?

After years of hearing the various arguments, I have two simple answers:

1. Yes

2. Erring on the side of caution, when that person is alive.

So here is the challenge: Have I missed anything and are my simple answers wrong? If so, how?

All are invited to take this challenge up. If you have a good point that you would like to argue, I would appreciate your thoughts. Perhaps we can settle something here or at least expose the weaknesses in the prevailing arguments.

This post moved up in response to reader's request in light of the Alito nomination. Preface added from related post.