We all know the circumspect pro-lifers who will endorse restricting abortion only to rapidly follow their statement with a modifier. It goes like this:
But if you plan on telling women they can’t abort babies, then you’d better be ready to establish orphanages, pay for healthcare, add welfare benefits, etc.
For a long time, I accepted this as sage advice. On first blush, it seems to be clearly true.
A friend brought up that point to me earlier today. I suddenly realized it is in many ways a cop out.
In order to demonstrate, consider a similar position on theft, which does not of necessity entail the ending of someone’s life. Here we go:
If you plan on making theft illegal, then you’d better be ready to remove the sources of material deprivation. You’ll need to be ready to provide healthcare, food stamps, welfare, etc. Until you remove the incentives for theft, you had better be ready to live with theft.
Do you see the problem? Abortion is an evil. Theft is an evil. Both are sometimes resorted to because people are desperate and don’t know what to do. At other times, the act is chosen in a more cynical fashion and without the tragically beautiful wrapping of travail.
I think we should do things to make abortion less attractive to women. But I do not think that we should propose to people that they may not legitimately oppose abortion until they are willing to enact a host of social welfare reforms. The evil is the evil. We can seek to prevent the evil by making it less attractive through palliative measures, but we may also seek to prevent the evil by making it unlawful. The second does not logically depend on the first.