Wednesday, July 10, 2013
OK, Fine, I'll Talk About Abortion; or, "The Bumper Sticker War"
I've had a rule since I started this blog: I wouldn't write about abortion. The subject is simply too much of a minefield, since very few people want to hear any discussion which doesn't involve mindless regurgitation of their sides' bumper sticker slogans. I skirted that rule on only one occasion, but I wasn't talking about abortion per se, but rather, talking about legislative language.
Well, now I'm going to cross that minefield.
I'll start with this: Abortion is a horrifying thing. Absolutely horrifying. If you've ever watched one, or know someone who works in medicine and has performed one, you know this. If you're staunchly pro-choice, you probably haven't experienced this, and you should. First-hand experience with the subject really does take the starch out of most people's "pro-choice" fervor. It changes the context of the abortion conversation from "ON DEMAND!" to "is this really necessary?".
Once upon a time, "is this really necessary?" was the context. Prior to Roe v. Wade (and the bumper stickers which followed), there was a much more sober discourse on the subject. From this more-conscientious discourse came the slogan "Safe, Legal, and Rare"- the notion that clinical abortion was preferable to back-alley abortion.
What ever happened to the "Rare" part? Our government started subsidizing abortion with taxpayer money, and abortion became free-of-charge (or nearly so) for many women. Yes, it's true, Federal law prohibits direct subsidy of abortion. But organizations like Planned Parenthood receive taxpayer money for other services, and since money is fungible, it all goes into one big pot. It should go without saying, but collecting tax money from a taxpayer who believes abortion is wrong, and using it to (indirectly) pay for abortions, is a mortal sin of government; any honest pro-choicer should recognize and respect this.
Any honest pro-lifer, on the other hand, must recognize the fact that the abortion rate will never be "zero", and has never been zero in our nation's history. Indeed, the Founding Fathers were aware of the primitively-performed abortions of their day, but didn't address them in the law (the first state ban on abortion was passed in Connecticut in 1829). A nationwide ban on abortion, in addition to being politically impossible, would also fail in its objective: the demand would still exist, and- as has happened in every developed country with an abortion ban in the modern era- would be filled by a black market, operating outside the scrutiny of government regulation. There is no better example of this than the black market in Chile, which has lined the pockets of organized crime families with obscene wealth (yes, I know, that's an odd phrase for a libertarian to use) and where, despite every effort of law enforcement and policy makers, abortion can be obtained quickly with very little risk of prosecution. Instead of the horror show of the Kermit Gosnell case being an exception, it would be the rule of abortion.
"Politics is the art of the possible", said Ben Franklin. Let's face reality: A ban on abortion isn't possible, either politically or legally. Continuing to expend manpower, money, and clout on an impossibility damages our credibility (what little we have left, at the federal level) and erodes our ability to do anything else. Those of us who are horrified by abortion should seek to do what can reasonably be done: Reduce the "need" for abortion as much as possible, thereby saving as many lives as possible, without creating the conditions for a black market and without violating Constitutional liberties.
So, I propose a new bumper sticker slogan: "Your Body, Your Choice, Your Dime".
As a matter of practicality rather than strict libertarian principle, I have no issue with subsidizing contraception if it prevents pregnancies which might be aborted. This is a critical component of the concept: If contraception is available, free or nearly free for low-income women, and they choose not to use it, then they have no moral claim to a taxpayer-subsidized abortion. They made the choice to not use the available options to prevent pregnancy. The welfare culture is a culture: It will adapt to the lack of cheap abortions by adopting contraception en masse, in the same way it adapts to changes in the rules for disbursing welfare dollars and administering programs.
Likewise, nobody has a moral claim to use another person's money for a purpose that person finds unconscionable. Since there's no way to separate tax dollars from pro-choicers from tax dollars from pro-lifers, it's wrong to subsidize abortion providers with tax money- directly or indirectly. But in order to approach this, we need an acceptable alternative. Here's my suggestion: an income tax return line, for voluntary contributions to a fund to subsidize abortion in rape and incest cases (which current federal law allows). If you, the taxpayer, want your tax dollars to fund abortions in these cases, then put your money where your mouth is. Add another line for donations to pregnancy crisis centers and adoption agencies, so the pro-lifers have a way to put their money where their mouths are, too. Personally, I'd be interested to see which fund receives more donations (I already have a guess).
I am, by the way, opposed to limiting abortion in rape and incest cases. Rape is a weapon of terrorism, class warfare, and racial warfare (see the current situation in Sweden).
And there it is- a way to drastically reduce the number of abortions performed, and save as many lives as possible, without advancing an agenda which has no hope of success, and while taking the blood out of the water on the subject and pulling together the sensible pro-lifers, the honest pro-choicers who actually believed the word "rare" in "Safe, Legal and Rare", and the people in the middle who are just tired of the abortion debate, while excluding the worst elements of both sides.
If one needs an example of this blood in the water effect, look no further than Justice Clarence Thomas' comments on the abortion debate and how it has ravaged the federal judiciary.
If we take the sensible road, the vitriolic pro-choicers- people like Wendy Davis- will, through their actions and their rhetoric, expose themselves for the lying rabble-rousers they really are. They only gain credence because our side's antics make them look reasonable by comparison.
And one other thing: For the pro-lifers who believe a total, nation-wide ban via Constitutional amendment is a good idea, let me point something out: Andrew Breitbart was right when he said "Politics is downstream of culture". Your current strategy is wholly ineffective. If ever you want to get people to listen to you, and possibly change their minds- leading to, eventually, a policy shift reflecting that changed culture- the only way to do so is to adopt a strategy of this nature.
Or, you can continue being totally ineffective, and projecting a sense of smug moral superiority, while not saving one single baby from termination.