The state of Texas just passed a “heartbeat” bill, banning abortion procedures after the six week of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It also allows private citizens to sue abortion providers, and this is the part that has abortion advocates really concerned.
The US Supreme Court decided surreptitiously—- via their so-called “shadow docket”—- 5-4 that because no one had actually sued, they had no grounds to evaluate the constitutionality of the law. I assume it will be challenged in short order. Whatever we think of these developments, I want to focus in on one aspect of this debate: how it is generally conducted among ordinary people.
We all know by now of our fierce partisanship, and the next step is usually a liberal Democrat saying, “If you really cared about reducing abortions, you would…” I do care, and what is more, I don’t want to reduce abortion; I want to eliminate it.
I can say this in total freedom, since I am completely nonpartisan, but it’s not a genuine offer. At various points in the last 25 years, a center-left majority has existed, to increase public spending at all levels, for pregnant mothers, children, the disabled, and various others. In large part, those policies have not been enacted, at least not to the degree that any of its advocates would hope. It is also fallacious to assume that abortion is driven by economic concerns alone. The best way to reduce abortion is to make it illegal. Most people do not have the resources to circumvent laws designed to prohibit things. That’s why laws are passed. That’s why laws are effective.
It is time for everyone who genuinely cares about these most vulnerable of people to call the bluff of those who make this argument. Support public funding for family support at all levels, and support strong restrictions—- up to and including bans—- on abortion.
The other aspect of this argument as it tends to go, is to mention the alleged harms of the new law, with respect to pregnant mothers. It may well be prudent to have a discussion about those harms, especially if a particular bill can be written better to avoid them, but one thing that ought not to be done is to beg the question with regard to the humanity of the pre-born person. That is the deflection and deception that must take place in the argument, in order to persuade people that the harms of a new abortion ban are somehow worse than the present state of things.
There are aspects of the Republican Party platform that I think are inhuman, which threaten the dignity of human beings. There are aspects of that platform that I think are incoherent at best, enough that I do not call myself a Republican. But if we take all the partisanship away to look at the issue of abortion, the basic outlines of the central question are clear for all to see.
The central question is as clear as a good sonogram: “What is that?” If it is “a clump of cells” as many would have it, there is nothing lamentable about the procedure itself. To grant that “no one likes abortion” is to concede that something is wrong with the act of abortion.
I think people concede this because they know, deep in the recesses of their consciences, that abortion involves the death of a human being. I could grant that some group of citizens does not and would not uphold the dignity of all human beings. Will you uphold the dignity of these human beings? It’s time to stop avoiding the question, time to stop changing the subject to the alleged holes in the philosophy of whomever you are debating, and to answer this question forthrightly. And then, knowing that the truth about the humanity of the pre-born is obvious, to have the courage to act in accord with that knowledge.
I have little hope that large portions of the ruling elite will change their minds on the question of abortion. I am also aware that the American people themselves are somewhat ambivalent on this question. But are they ambivalent because they have been taught that the question is inaccessible to reason? Have they been taught that we cannot arrive at the truth of the matter, or that it is a religious question?
I have to believe that simple reason will eventually prevail. On the other hand, many people are fond of sophistry and misdirection, and if they can avoid the central question and its implications, they will do so.
Jason Kettinger is Associate Editor of Open for Business. He writes on politics, sports, faith and more.