Just because something is illegal does not necessarily mean that it is wrong and, conversely, because something is legal doesn’t mean that it is right. Legality is a question of law. Morality is a question of ethics. Sometimes they mesh, quite often they don’t.
Cue the abortion debate.
Legally speaking, women have never had so much freedom to end their pregnancies as they have right now. Laws have been (and are being) enacted which guarantee women the legal right to choose an abortion to end a pregnancy without interference from anyone else, without fear of prosecution and punishment from the law.
However, this issue has not (and will not) disappear from public view because, for every legal argument in favor of abortion, there is a moral argument against it. Society is split on this issue. Cultures are divided with one side vociferously in favor of the “right to choose” against another which vigorously promotes the “right to life”. One side of the issue sneers at the moral argument, while the other side condemns the legal point of view.
Sidenote: No one, not one single person, ever has a “right” to life. Life is given by God and will be taken away at some point. It is not something inherent within us which we possess simply because we are human. The only guarantee a person has who is alive, born or unborn, is that death will come in some way, some fashion, to end that life. Or, as Job said in the agony of his distress, “The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
With respect to God, we simply have no rights. We are owned lock, stock, and barrel.
With respect to other humans, however, as individual people created in the Image of God, we do have certain rights. First and foremost among these would be the right to live without infringement of that right and all the blessings and benefits that pertain to it, including the accumulation of property to our heart’s content. Many libertarians welcome such a system, of course, as long as the emphasis is on the accumulation of property, but when it comes to the abortion issue, they are divided as much as the greater population.
The way things stand now, it is reminiscent of trench warfare in WWI, during which millions of men fought for years without gaining any decisive advantage over the opposing side. This stalemate persisted until a new tactic was introduced (with fresh infusions of troops from the US) to overrun the status quo and end the war. The first half of the war, that is, because the Versailles Treaty only signaled a 20 year intermission between Act 1 and Act 2. WWI became WW2, which was far worse.
One major difference between the trenches in WWI and the battleground of abortion on demand is that millions of soldiers died miserable deaths defending “their” cold, wet, muddy turf. The soldiers were there by their own volition, even though they were ordered to kill or be killed. They had a say in the matter. They could “do” something to change their situation. They could have refused to participate. Today, millions of unborn innocents die miserable deaths without any chance or possibility of defending the warm, wet, natural space which they find themselves in. Unborn children are completely helpless and can do nothing to save themselves. Even the innocent civilians who did not actively participate in the destruction of WW1, but were slaughtered due to the vagaries of the conflict, could, at the very least make an attempt to get out of the line of fire. Unborn children do not have that option. They are completely helpless and can do nothing to save themselves.
What is the solution to this intractable impasse? Is there a solution? Well, of course, that depends on your own moral and political viewpoint. You might want to see unfettered access to abortion without reserve or distinction. You might want to see the complete opposite where women are forced to carry to term even if her life is in danger or the unborn infant is hideously deformed. Is there any middle ground which can be agreed upon even though we might have to hold our nose to stay there?
Maybe we can start by re-humanizing the unborn instead of relegating them to the status of ‘non-persons’. After all, they are unquestionably human.
“There are two aspects of the abortion debate we need to be concerned about in determining the definition of an unborn child: biological and political. Humanity and person-hood are two different things and we must be careful not to confuse them.” — https://make-difference.life/2019/05/19/the-political-scientific-divide-of-abortion/
“From the moment of conception, a human being exists within the womb–zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus—right up to the point of the delivery as a newborn baby. At every stage of development, this is a live human being. Whether he is a person or not doesn’t matter. Whether she has rights or not is irrelevant. He is a human being. She is a human being. Abortion is a procedure which literally kills a human being. Abortion has probably killed hundreds of millions of human beings in the 20th century alone.” — http://make-difference.life/2019/03/03/without-question-the-beginning-of-human-life/
Considering that many, perhaps most, of the abortions done today are in the privacy of a woman’s home via pharmaceutical means, i.e., “morning-after pill, RU486, etc., it is going to be impossible to completely eliminate the practice. Zealous interference in the marketplace to stop the manufacture, distribution, and use of these medications will only result in substantial black market dealings, much like the current situation with already illegal drugs. Besides, passing laws does not eliminate problems, it only changes the focus and the circumstances. Legal prohibition of “morning-after” ingestion will not improve the situation. It will only drive it underground.
What can be done, however, is the route many states are taking in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Health Center Supreme Court ruling which threw the issue back to the states to regulate–partial or complete banning of surgical abortions which involve a third-party who wields the scalpel or the vacuum hose, resulting in the death of the unborn human being. To my way of thinking, this is the preferred direction we should go as a community. Rather than trying to eliminate every single case of abortion (which cannot be done and is a waste of precious time and energy), we should simply shut down the killing centers (Planned Parenthood, et al) into which two people enter but only one comes out alive. Weld the doors shut, if necessary. We should start putting real teeth into laws which prosecute doctors, nurses, technicians, assistants, and associated others who operate (prey?) on the women who avail themselves of the ‘services’. There is probably no way to destroy the pharmaceutical aspect of privately individual abortion, but we certainly can shut down all the butcher shops which are open to the public in plain view of God and Man.
3 thoughts on “Abortion and the Law”
Roger, not consistent with the tone of this piece, but on the same topic: I wrote a libertarian argument against abortion using only standard and accepted contract law. I am sure this was done before you joined the community, so perhaps you haven’t seen it.
Thank you, Bionic. Yes, I have seen the piece and commented on it only 4-1/2 years after publication. Hey, better late than never.
Before Covid hit, I was writing to a blog called To Make a Difference, dedicated solely to the abortion issue and had published numerous articles to refute the philosophies of such thinkers as Murray Rothbard, Walter Block, Judith Jarvis-Thomson, and others. Your name is mentioned at least once. Some of these can be seen below.
I quit posting to this blog in 2020 due to the fact that virtually all of my writing was taken up with the Covid issue. I could not handle both. Since Covid is no longer an existential “crisis”, I may begin posting here again.
[…] Note: This article was first published at Poor Roger’s Almanac on Sept. 08, […]