Cardella: How Not to Solve the Abortion Issue

Amy Coney Barrett is, as you know, the newest member of the Supreme Court. Some observers believe that her appointment spells the end of Roe v. Wade. And if it does, some anti-abortion advocates believe, it will mean the end of a right to abortion. It won’t. What it likely means is that the decision as to whether abortions are legal will be returned to the states. And what that means is that a woman can still get an abortion, though she might have to travel to another state to do so. But poor women can’t afford to travel to another state. So, if you want to feel self-righteous about making abortion difficult or even impossible for poor women, be my guest. If you sense irony in the fact that Donald J. Trump has become the right-to-life president, I applaud you. Mr. Trump was famously pro-choice before he was pro-life. His “change-of-heart” had nothing to do with moral principles. It was a political calculation.

Please understand — I am not making a case for abortion. In fact, I don’t know anyone who advocates abortion. What these people advocate is letting women decide rather than the government. There is a certain irony in small-government conservatives favoring government intervention in the most personal of decisions. There is a need to realistically examine the issue without shouting hurtful slogans at one another. What IS the effect of forcing poor women to bear babies they don’t want?

Maybe the first thing we ought to consider is that we’re addressing a problem that is becoming LESS of a problem every year. The number of abortions is decreasing every year. Choose any reason why that’s the case. Argue that even one aborted pregnancy is one too many, if you wish. But you can’t argue the facts — the number of abortions is decreasing.

Seems to me that the common ground for both sides of this issue is to lessen the need for abortions. Accepting that proposition suggests that the best way to accomplish this is through better, more effective birth control. One of the leading pro-life proponents is the Catholic Church, but its doctrine prohibits what it considers “artificial” (which is to say effective) contraception. Statistics show that the majority of Catholics ignore church doctrine on this issue. But the Church is an effective lobbying force against taxpayer funding for contraception. Even when it comes to the U.S. assisting poor countries abroad — countries where overpopulation is a problem.

You often hear pro-life advocates offering adoption as another solution. The perfect solution that adoptive couples could be found for every unwanted pregnancy. But that’s pure fantasy. White and Asian children are much more likely to be adopted than children of color. In the real world, it’s the minority children who grow up in the generally unhappy environment of orphanages and foster care. The passion that infuses the desire to stop abortions too often fades when it comes time to fund the need for the care of fetuses once they’re born into this world.

Logic is often a casualty in the debate over abortion. All abortion is murder, goes the argument. But if one is to believe that, then it requires a belief that at the moment of conception, the fetus is endowed with an immortal soul. The problem is that just as many, if not more people, don’t believe any such thing. And if all abortion, at any stage of a pregnancy, is to be construed as murder, then what are we to do in the case of rape, incest or severe deformity that won’t allow the fetus to be viable outside the womb? And wouldn’t murder require not only the doctor performing any abortion, but the woman herself being charged with willful homicide? These questions have even split anti-abortion activists.

Perhaps, the most effective argument by those who want to ban abortion is that late-term abortion must be illegal. What could possibly be the justification for late-term abortion? But the very definition of late-term abortion is that eight months or so into her pregnancy, a woman has changed her mind about carrying that pregnancy to term. Why? Something dreadful likely happened. New facts have likely been uncovered about the condition and viability of the fetus or the danger posed to the life of the woman. If that situation were to happen in your own family, would you want the government to make the incredibly difficult decision? Or would you want your wife or sister or girlfriend to have the right to decide? As you ponder this, please know that late-term abortions constitute less than 1% of all abortions in the U.S. Living babies are not being slaughtered every day at your neighborhood Planned Parenthood clinic.

Some have argued that questioning some of these issues is somehow anti-Catholic. Since many Catholics themselves are not aligned with the pro-life movement or at least have reservations about its absolutist goals, it’s difficult for me to see how debating the issue means you’re de facto anti-Catholic. The idea that there’s some anti-Catholic mood sweeping the country is belied by the fact that six of the nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic.

The rights of most women will not be affected by placing the issue back with the states. The anti-abortion movement will have its ideology satisfied on the backs of poor women. 

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