Popular topics for political discussions all revolve the question of choice. People are happier when given more options in their decision making but laws still have to be set in order to prevent people from harming each other. The price, however, of living in a nation that allows the beliefs of different cultures and religions to exist is that we often have clashes over what we believe is best and lawful for our citizens. Recently, my home state of Texas signed into law a bill that prevents a woman from having an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Whenever I was asked the question whether I approve of that law my only response was “I don’t know.” Unfortunately, my response when it comes to whether abortion should be legal or not is still being formed.
As a libertarian I might be expected to be pro-choice. After all, the point of minimizing government is to allow the most choices possible in life, as people tend to be happier when they are able to live their lives without having to be told how. Both sides of the debate, however, leave me perplexed as each side defends its position from different views. People on the left believe a woman has the right to decide what happens to her own body, but those on the right argue that this right does not trump the to-be child’s inalienable right to life. Many pro-choice supporters do not recognize a fetus to be life, but I find a problem with this. When we observe through a microscope a prokaryotic cell and look at diagrams of the cell itself it is clear it’s alive. It responds to its environment and contains mechanisms that allow it move, consume energy, and reproduce, so there is no doubt that a single celled organism is life. So how is it that people can accept a single celled organism to be life and yet a child in a mother’s womb to not be? Are human cells any less alive than prokaryotes?
If my comparison is not convincing that an unborn child is still life, consider this. If a woman who was pregnant was attacked by a robber, beaten, survived, but due to the blows the child still dies, what is the robber charged with? Wouldn’t murder be the main charge against the thief other than assault and theft? One may argue that the child wasn’t born so it is not considered life but the counterargument to that is why would the to-be mother bother in trying to shield her womb as best as she can with her hands or anyway possible when she is attacked? She protects her child because she recognizes its existence. The to-be mother has an inheritable instinct to protect her child will automatically shield her womb for the sake of the child’s safety.
This is not to say pro-life arguments against abortion are flawless. Their stance is sometimes based on religion, but this is not an effective base to stand on as our government- even though some politicians on the right don’t understand- is secular and within a nation of different religions, even atheism, there are few people who will accept arguments from another’s particular background.
But even if one were to defend pro-life on the basis of a child’s right to life there are many facts that get left out and unintended consequences that are overlooked. The first problem is that passing a law that forbids abortion is a form of coercion. The purpose of a strong yet limited government is to prevent government intervention in our lives, but having pro-life beliefs goes against that principle. “Well, this is an exception,” some will argue, but this would only be the first step to more laws that would promote more coercion. That’s just the price of having a limited government and universal freedoms. If a woman wants to have the freedom to let her child have life then a woman has the freedom to do the complete opposite without the government having a say. It is hypocritical for the right to argue for limited government and then support a law that would expand government to prevent women from having abortions.
Now suppose President Obama signed a law that declared all abortions illegal. So what? The problem with laws is that people who are desperate enough will still break them for various reasons. The “solution” to the war on drugs was to make them illegal but many people, despite the risks, still do drugs because it is what they desire. What came out of those laws were drug cartels and increased crime over the control and distribution of those drugs. Prohibition in the USA had similar results and simply legalizing the consumption of alcohol allowed streets to be a lot safer. As with alcohol and drugs, a ban on abortion across the USA would backfire in different ways. First, women will still have abortions despite the law. If abortions are in high demand, regardless of the law, women will still go out of their way to find an illegal clinic. Second, the law would eliminate clinics that ensure safe methods of abortion. Without those clinics women would have to resort to more crude methods, not to mention if caught, they would be subject to criminal prosecution. Pro-life supporters may believe this would discourage abortion, but for the sake of their health, women will go to extreme measures to have them, just as users went to the extreme measures to get their illegal narcotics. Third, based on the discoveries of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner in their book Freakonomics, statistically speaking, crime and poverty would increase nationwide as a result of a national ban of abortion. Women tend to have abortions when they feel they could not provide a well suited environment for the child to live in. A child is more likely to have criminal activities in the future if he lives in poverty and with one parent. The chances increase with teenage mothers. So, a woman may not feel comfortable having her child because she cannot afford to have the child and feels she does not have the right educational status to raise the child. In this sense the to-be mother may know what is best for her child. If a woman is forced to have an unwanted child, the mother may not have the extensive care for the child’s well-being as would with a parent who planned to have a baby. The result of a child living in bad conditions is a strong likelihood of being a criminal in the future who may kill another human being or follow in the footsteps of the mother. In other words, more abortions allowed, the less people who are likely to become criminals are born, and the less crime rates are seen across the population.
A final question that attempts to settle most political discussions is whether abortion is constitutional or not. My answer is yes and no. Yes, because according to the individual rights principle of the Constitution, a woman should decide for herself what she wants to do with her body. The answer is also no, because going back to the inalienable right of life and individual rights principle, the unborn child has its right to life and liberty. A woman’s right does not trump the un-born’s right, yet we can agree that the inalienable rights are more significant than, say, a right to use a public library. So inalienable rights seem to have more weight than other rights, but right to liberty is still the foundation for all the other rights people have such as the right to have an abortion. Another issue is despite all the negative effects passing an anti-abortion bill, does the right to life make the right to abort non-existent? Would there need to be more bad consequences of that law in order for the right to life to not apply? There isn’t a way to measure rights so this is the point where I am split on whether there should even be a national law for or against abortion.
The Roe v. Wade decision used the 9th and 14th amendments to defend the claim that because federal and state government can’t intervene in one’s private life, a woman’s privacy is protected on what she does to her own unborn child. While the court’s decision was forty years ago, politicians still debate about this issue. It is clear that the nation is still split on abortion so a national law declaring abortion to be permissible or not will not be agreed on anytime soon. Each state still has its own regulations on how and when abortions can be made so there are options for women and families to live in states that have laws which are more supportive of their interests. Despite the state laws and the 1973 court decision, people will still not be satisfied in how their government is responding to abortion and I am still to wonder what, if any, universal law can be made that would address the controversial clash between rights of the individual and the right for a developing child to be born.