Monday, November 30, 2009
I hope everyone had a restful Thanksgiving eating unnaturally large factory farmed turkeys and barely tolerating our racist relatives. The holiday season is now officially here, and many people around the country will be putting aside differences, gathering together with their families, and letting Christmas spirit and heavily spiked egg nog wash their troubles away.
But that's not happening on this blog. Now, let's talk about abortion.
Abortion is in the news again, thanks to the unholy mess that is the health care debate. Right before the health care bill passed the House, an amendment was added on to it that would effectively block federal funding from paying for abortions in the unlikely event that a health care bill gets passed. (It could have further-reaching effects on abortion availability, as explained here.) Pro-choicers are angry about this, but pro-lifers, understandably don't want their tax dollars to go towards killing babies. (Then again, I don't like my money going towards killing Iraqi civilians, but what are you going to do?) The Hyde Amendment already limits the use of federal funding on abortions, so the Stupak Amendment to the House bill is not unprecedented—still, it gives people a chance to yell at each other about abortions, which is at least a change from yelling at each other about Socialism.
Yelling is really the only way we can debate abortion because it really is impossible for us to discuss this rationally. If you believe that unborn fetuses are people, abortion is child-killing and must end—and if you believe that unborn fetuses are people, nothing is going to change your mind. On the other hand, nothing short of a religious conversion is going to turn a pro-choicer into a pro-lifer. Many Liberals think that if people were properly educated about the health care bill and the benefits of state-run health care in countries like the United Kingdom, they'd accept the Public Option as the best possible solution to the health care “crisis.” That's not an option in the case of abortion, unless God comes down from His mountain and tells everyone that fetuses aren't people until the second trimester.
But let's dodge the question of whether abortion is murder for a second. What do pro-life groups want? Presumably, they want no more abortions to be performed. Some of them don't even want anyone to use birth control, because every sperm is sacred. But people are going to have abortions even if they're illegal, just like teens are going to continue to drink and my first-floor neighbor is going to continue selling weed.
Maybe making abortions illegal will restrict access to them and reduce abortions in number, but it's already tough to get an abortion in this country, as this excellent post points out. No one, not even loose New York City Liberals, gets an abortion just for the hell of it. Pro-choicers sometimes argue so strenuously in favor of the “right” to get abortions, it sounds like they are in favor of abortions, when in reality nobody is in favor of abortions. Some women, though, for a variety of reasons, will occasionally want an abortion more than they want a child, which is to say they desperately don't want a child. And most of them are so desperate, they won't care whether an abortion is legal, or whether it's going to cost them most or all of their life savings. Even assuming that abortion is murder, you have to know that people are going to have them, no matter their legal status.
What criminalizing abortion would really accomplish is that it would signal our society's deep disapproval of abortion, just as we disapprove of murder, or bigamy, or smoking a joint. But can't we disapprove of something without making it illegal? We don't approve of heavy drinking as a nation, but we allow it, because we tried outlawing it, and guess what? People still got shitfaced, criminals took over alcohol distribution and got rich off of it, and prohibition turned out to be such an obviously bad idea that even Americans realized it. The same thing will happen with the war on drugs, for the same reasons—I hope.
Assume the Stupak amendment is really a step down the road towards making abortion illegal, or so scarce only a few centers around the country have appropriate facilities. That won't be the end of abortions, it will just the beginning of a lot of “off the grid” abortions, as women will have to resort to coat hangers, unlicensed doctors, or simply drinking so much that they miscarry. And that would really suck.
Anyway, happy holidays everyone! Remember to use a condom.