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The Middle Ground on Abortion



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I’m grateful for Ashley McGuire’s thoughts on my NRO piece exploring how pro-lifers can reach out to the center. However, she seems in large part to be responding to an article I never wrote.

I never argued that we should “throw up the white flag” or “throw in the towel” or “prematurely surrender” on the question of abortion. On the contrary, the focus of my piece was on expanding the pro-life coalition to include those who represent the center of American opinion on the subject.

Many of these moderate Americans agree that unborn children have rights, but they do not necessarily believe that life begins at conception. Perhaps they believe that life begins when the fetal heart begins to beat. Perhaps they believe it begins when the fetal brain begins to function. Perhaps their views are less defined and more intuitive.

But to these moderates who believe that life begins sometime in the midst of fetal development, it is no contradiction to be pro-life after that point, and pro-choice before it. Such views are, literally, as old as Aristotle, who suggested in the 4th century B.C. that abortion was acceptable prior to the fortieth day of gestation. While many of us might not defer to Aristotle today, his framework is, indeed, completely different from that of the straw man Ashley erects, of the pro-choicer who claims to be personally against abortion while supporting its legality.

My argument is that we miss out on an opportunity by ceding these moderates to the Democratic pro-choice coalition.

I’m not alone in appreciating the power of this argument. The legislatures of Ohio and Arkansas have considered “heartbeat bills” that ban abortion in instances where a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat. Far from finding such legislation to constitute “premature surrender” to pro-choice forces, some in the pro-life movement have opposed heartbeat bills on the premise that they are too aggressive, because such legislation may precipitate another Supreme Court decision on abortion at a time when there isn’t an anti-Roe majority on the Court.

One final thought. Ashley cites Aristotle’s Law of Contradiction in arguing against my point about abortion moderates. As I explain above, I don’t agree that she’s applying Aristotle correctly in that instance. However, while we’re on the subject of ancient wisdom, I would commend to her Aristotle’s Ethics—an entire treatise on the virtue of the middle ground.



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