Wednesday, January 23, 2008

the costs, causes and partial cures of Roe v. Wade

Excerpts from Cal Thomas' op-ed this week in the C-J...

Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court unilaterally struck down state laws restricting abortion, the cost of that decision continues to increase...

This alludes to an interesting legal and policy question: How on earth does one make a case for trumping state rights to provide a right to abortion? Interestingly, it would be far easier to make a federal case in trying to assert and protect a right to life!

Roe and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, took the question of endowment of life by "our Creator" and placed it in the hands of individuals. History has shown what happens when humanity seizes such power for itself: political dictatorships, eugenics and scientific experiments unrestrained by any moorings to a moral code. Each becomes her and his own god; each becomes a taker of life, rather than a giver, inverting the creation model into one of destruction and transforming the pregnant woman from life-giver to life-taker...

Great points!

Abortion on demand cannot be seen in isolation from social breakdown. In 1973...the focus on self, pleasure and convenience by baby boomers was at its height. Marriages easily dissolved as "no fault" divorce laws were passed; cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births were on the rise; "unwanted babies" (who were labeled "products of conception" to make it easier to deny the obvious) became an impediment to the pursuit of pleasure and material gain.

Abortion was not a cause, but a reflection of our decadence and deviancy. One does not begin to kill babies until other dominos have fallen. And once they have fallen, it becomes difficult to set them aright because to do so would require an admission of something so horrible that those responsible for this fetal holocaust would have to acknowledge their sin and repent of it. Such a thing is not a character trait of this most pampered generation.


OK, where to go from here? Some policy advice from Thomas-- whether ideal or not, it is certainly consistent with Washington's typical bent to act paternalistically when people are making important decisions...

Politicians and judges could help bury Roe by requiring that pregnant women receive complete information about the nature of the life within them, including being required to view sonograms before electing abortion. This would follow truth-in-labeling and truth-in-lending laws by fully informing and empowering women. Such an approach would satisfy the liberal demand to keep abortion "safe and legal" and the pro-life desire to make them rare.


At January 23, 2008 at 7:52 PM , Blogger David Hutson said...

I don't think the government should make it its business to discourage abortion. My opinion is that abortion is generally immoral, but I also believe the pro-life movement would be better served by using non-government means to reduce the demand for abortion.

A substantial amount of money/time/effort is spent on the "pro-life" political movement. Imagine the impact that money/time/effort could have if all of it was re-directed toward (1) facilitating adoptions, (2) providing assistance to parents who give birth to disabled children, (3) making an ethical appeal (as opposed to a political appeal) to discourage abortion, or (4) [insert better ideas here].

True, if abortions remain legal, unborn children will die. But if abortions are illegal people will still find ways to get abortions. Marijuana is illegal, but, amazingly, that does not stop people from smoking it.

The issue of abortion is a political device that politicians use to pander. It gives conservative politicians a means of distracting voters from other issues. We shouldn't be electing people to office (or appointing them to Judgeships) because of their opinion on abortion. I think those of us who believe abortion to be immoral should take the issue out of the political arena and focus our efforts on private action that can make a real difference.

At January 23, 2008 at 9:32 PM , Blogger Bryce Raley said...

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I take the libertarian position on legislating moral issues. However, I don't see abortion as a moral issue.

Life is a constitutional issue, which in my mind is bigger than a political issue. You are right that it should have never been a political issue. Certainly, not one where a court speaks for a country. I don't know the numbers but a nationwide vote would have to be at least 70-30 for the overturning of Roe. The majority in this democracy would vote for life.

The life debate will no longer be focused entirely on abortion in the future. With the baby boomers aging, the next issue on the horizon will be euthanasia. Imagine individuals taking care of their aging parents while they are living well into their 80's and 90's because of advances in medical treatments. Illnesses like dementia or alzheimers can impair individuals mentally but their bodies could be in fantastic condition for years.

With euthanasia selfishness can be an issue in a similar way with abortion. However, greed due to inheritance or insurance proceeds does not exist with the abortion issue.

I sold LTC insurance for about 5 years and I started to see how this would be the next big debate around the issue of "life".

At January 24, 2008 at 12:20 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

To Bryce's point: Abortion is a justice issue (as I discuss in TNRNL)-- and so, it is a more attractive target for legislative attention.

But to David's point: I agree that legislation is not the first-best solution to the problem. The first approach should still be persuasion-- with the pursuit of restrictions at the margin, as politically possible and practically effective. I also agree that many Christians have put too many eggs into the legislative and constitutional baskets.

To Bryce's final point: various types of euthanasia (from voluntary to coercive) will continue to come into play in the coming years. This is especially true in the context of rapidly increasing costs for health care for the elderly in the end stages of life-- particularly when the tab is being picked up by the govt/taxpayers.

Out of this, an interesting ethical question emerges: When should one take money from other people to keep oneself (or others) alive? In other words, it's one thing to use your own money (or private insurance) to keep yourself alive-- but something quite different if you're digging into others' pockets to do so.

At January 24, 2008 at 12:53 PM , Blogger David Hutson said...

Life is a constitutional issue, but (in the abortion context)it has already been decided. The court (wrongly) decided in Roe v. Wade that a woman's constitutional privacy interest outweighs any life interest of a fetus.

I think that is unjust result. But, in making this a political "justice" issue, we have spent decades in an unproductive movement that may one day achieve our shared end, but also further pervert the Constitution in the process.

Making the appointment of judges an overly political exercise chips away at our "rule of law" system, and and turns it into the rule of men. Trying to subvert a woman's constitutional right to choose an abortion through legislation does the same thing. It would be reasonable to say that this is what the liberals of the past have done, but,in the words of Eddie Vedder, I would say to pro-lifers, "If you hate something, don't you do it too.." Fix the problem, don't repeat it.

I am a pragmatist, so the question I ask is "what difference does it make"? I think the least bad alternative is to focus our (private) resources on people, not judges and legislators. That is where we can do the most good and least harm.


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