Balkinization  

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Democratic Pro-life Position

JB

It seems that the Democratic Party is going to flirt with a more moderate stance on abortion. If so, it should be true to the larger principles of the party-- sex equality and equal opportunity.

Abortion rights are a matter of sex equality. They are a matter of sex equality because laws against abortion compel women to become mothers against their will, with all the duties and responsibilities that go with parenthood. Given that women will most likely bear most of the responsibility for child care (particularly if the father is absent) laws against abortion put women in a very different position than men; they require them to devote substantial portions of their lives to raising children, forgo opportunities in the public world of work, and undermine their equal citizenship with men.

If, despite this, one feels it important to restrict abortion because of the overwhelming interest in potential human life, one must attempt to remedy the problem of sex inequality in another way. Pro-life Democrats can work to lessen the stigma of surrendering a child for adoption, but that stigma is unlikely to fade soon no matter how earnest the effort. Far more important is support for social programs that help working women with the burdens of child care and with the costs of raising children, including nutrition programs, educational programs, subsidized health insurance for mother and child, and subsidized child care. A child's life does not stop after it leaves the womb; and if one really wants to be a "pro-life" Democrat, one should be pounding the table for protecting born children as well as unborn ones, as well as protecting the equality and equal opportunity of the women who gave birth to them.


Comments:

I agree entirely. As a Democrat who leans pro-Life (but is troubled by the implications that position has on sex equality), the very least the government can do is create an "enabling environment" within which life can flourish. Forcing women to carry babies to term, then denying them the very resources necessary to raise the child is a cruel catch-22. I also think this moral responsibility is on Republicans who identify as pro-life as well as Democrats. Too many Republicans are willing to fight to the death the save the life of an unborn child, only to promptly lose interest once the child actually enters the world. This is morally unconscionable.
 

Being pro-choice is being pro-life.

Look, banning abortion doesn't stop abortion. Banning abortion is just the first step from the same people whose goal is to ban birth control. Are women going to stop getting pregnant? No, of course not. So there will be more unwanted pregnancies, and you can bet that overall there will end up being just as many abortions - only a lot of them will end up in back alleys or do-it-yourself. You know, the kind that end up with the mother dead.

The anti-abortion stance isn't "moderate" anyway, it's far less popular than the belief that it's not a decision the government should be making.

The problem isn't that the Democratic Party hasn't been welcoming enough to "pro-life" people, it's that they haven't fully articulated that we already are pro-life people, and that's why we are pro-choice.
 

Male Democrats especially must address abortion by considering the burdens upon the woman facing the matter of childbirth. What rights would we males want if the procedure were reversed? What differs male Democrats from many conservative Republicans is acceptance of society's responsibility after the child is born. Put me down in agreement with JB and the commenters. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyous Whatever. May the commensality of the season spread throughout the year.
 

It is not surprising that there were fewer abortions in the Clinton administration than either Bush administration. The larger the safety net the less incentive for poor women to find a way to get an abortion. Balkin's proposals for a larger safety net would do even more to stop abortions than criminalization.
 

A little bit of marketing and buzz can help address the stigma. Taking a leaf from Japan where businesses which pay the most taxes are ranked and thanked at the end of the year, the same could be done, for women who have decided against abortion in order to give the little life a chance.

This could be done in small steps, starting with day time talk shows, or as a feature on PBS. People who are anti-abortion need to really address the roots of the issue why abortions are taking place, and address the difficulties women face if they chose to go through with their pregnancies.

In addition, there needs to be a third legal status, like a halfway between giving a child up for adoption and keeping one's child. Some mothers grieve the loss of a child, or wonder what has happened to them. Something can be learnt from how this is done in Asia in a less formal way, when people for whatever reasons become too poor to look after their child. This can address issues such as access to child, say after they turn 18, or rights to the child should somehow the adopting parents have died. Children who have more than two parents are pretty common nowadays, so this is only a new variation.

Through legislation, these don't have to be gray areas. Of course, conflict can arise, as in any other arrangements between human beings, but the idea is to give some certainty under the law how these arrangements can be made in the interests of the unborn child.
 

Why not pay women to carry their babies to term? Say $15,000 per live birth, which seems about to be the market price for surrogacy. At about 4,000,000 births per year, this would cost $60 billion per year. Surely a pro-life conservative would be willing to raise taxes this much? Income tax collections are about $1000 billion per year, so this isn't even a large increase.

An amusing mental exercise, but of course pointless. It's much more fun to criminalize behavior of others that you don't like. Probably not cheaper, but so what?
 

Oops. 4 million births NOW, plus 1 million abortions, so the cost become $75 billion per year. And I'm a mathematician - bad bad bad.
 

It's a bit much to say that laws against abortion "compel women to become mothers against their will." In some sense they do, I suppose, but it is precisely the same sense in which laws against murder compel women to remain mothers against their will.

One needn't be a radical religious conservative to think that people who decide to have sex with each other take on a certain responsibility for the possible consequences of that decision. I don't mean that in a sexually moralistic way; it's just an application of the general principle that people shouldn't act with disregard for obvious potential consequences of their actions. (Rape, of course, is a different matter.)

That said, I wholly agree that a pro-life (or not-wholly-pro-choice) Democrat should offer better solutions for everyone involved, and the mother and child are typically the two whose interests are most clearly at stake.
 

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