Why The Left and Right Are Wrong on Abortion

There is an endemic problem in using the state for social outcomes. Groups with power always create groups with victims and it is bizarrely irrelevant whether this is done deliberately or by accident. When it comes to abortion, the lives of children and livelihoods of mothers are equally important and the rights of both should not depend on who holds the reigns of political power.

Those on the left fear that prohibiting abortion does nothing to end its practice; that it will simply drive women to seek dangerous and life threatening situations. Those on the right have concerns that pro-life doctors are legally obligated to provide referrals, essentially facilitating murder to keep their careers. A libertarian viewpoint believes both these perspectives are equally valid. Neither should be undermined simply because one has the authority to push the other side to oblivion.

So how involved are governments in the abortion industry? In America, Planned Parenthood receives $528 million in taxpayer funding annually. Whilst private funding also exists, the government is by far its largest source of revenue. It is ethically disturbing that whilst only half the population believes abortion is morally justified, the entire population is footing the bill. It’s one thing to commit evil, it’s quite another to condone it but it’s something else altogether when you’re actually paying for it to happen.

The recent uproar over Planned Parenthood’s sale of human body parts tells us something. If half a society believes the unborn child is a human being and if the costs of abortion are forcibly funded by the very same people, then there is nothing “pro-choice” about Planned Parenthood. Conservatives are right to push the defunding of Planned Parenthood completely. An abortion clinic can only call itself “pro-choice” when it is not funded by the taxpayer.

At the same time, many conservatives want tougher anti-abortion laws. They believe, like with drugs, prostitution and poverty, banning it by law will end it in reality. As a staunch Catholic, I would push for anti-abortion laws if I knew they worked. The actual statistics from the World Health Organization however, show a different picture. Prohibiting abortion across developed and developing nations does not significantly lower the rates of abortion. If this study is accurate, then criminalizing abortion will not help unborn babies to live. At best, it would punish one person for what two people are equally responsible for. At worst, an underground procedure would endanger the life of the mother and any potential children she may have later on.

Some argue a policy’s ineffectiveness by nature should not mean its eradication in principle. High crime rates, for example, do not invalidate laws that say murder is illegal. Punishing abortion in the same way, however, is a whole different matter. The home of an unborn child is its mother. Inflict harm onto it and you inflict harm over its only means of survival.

Additionally, there is the moral dilemma of punishing the wrong person behind the crime. According to a study by the Elliot Institute, 64% of women felt they were forced into having an abortion. Pressured by a spouse, family member or even employer, women had few other options but to commit something against their better moral judgement. To involve state authority in this situation is punishing the victim and not the perpetrator of an offense.

Whether a woman is coerced or chooses to give up her child, “pro-life” policies punishing women are counterproductive to their name. Conservatives who solely pursue tougher legislation neglect the reality that choice is integral for the pro-life movement to work.

To solve a very real social issue, the first step is to remove the government from the picture. Conservatives advocate the rights of a child, and feminist call for the rights of mothers. They are both right in theory but completely wrong in practice when they use the state as their instrument of change. The cruelty that begets both sides is the inevitable and accidental consequence of deliberately using the state for “social justice.”

The holistic solution is to help both the mother and child; whose lives are inextricably intertwined. This happens mother by mother, child by child, in local organisations not in beaurocratic agencies. Organisations like Feminists for Life believe that abortion is a reflection of a society that has failed the needs of women. It provides financial and medicinal support throughout all stages of a woman’s pregnancy. It connects families who want to adopt children with women who cannot or do not wish to raise a child. Most importantly, it provides a supportive network of mothers who understand the struggle that women are facing. Instead of punishing women, they serve them and in doing so, are more effective in ending abortion on a regular basis than any policy.

Moral sentiments are the fantastic pillars of our society. Individually, they propel us to come to the aid of those who need our help. However, when moral sentiments are collectivised and propagated by force to deliver moral outcomes, they corrode. Not only do they abdicate all forms of personal responsibility, they are actually counterproductive to the ends they serve to achieve. What we don’t need is government funded abortion clinics. What we don’t need is tougher abortion laws. What we do need are flexible adoption laws, active citizenship and a flourishing of independent organisations to give women the freedom not to choose abortion.

 

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