The Corner

The (Abortion) Center Cannot Hold?

Ashley and Michael make some useful points in their most recent posts expressing skepticism about a middle ground on abortion. But overall, they reinforce the argument I made in my original article: that Roe v. Wade has led to a polarization in the abortion landscape, a landscape that would look very different if Americans were free to decide the issue democratically, through legislation.

To reiterate, my view is that people who want to substantially reduce the number of abortions conducted in America should be thought of as allies, not enemies, of the pro-life movement. Ronald Reagan used to say that “a person who is your friend 80 percent of the time is a friend and ally, not a 20 percent traitor.” This was true in the abolition movement, and it ought to be true in the pro-life movement.

Elsewhere in her post, Ashley makes the argument that “the scientific community accepts the simple assertion that at the moment of conception, a new human life is created.” My degree in biology is admittedly a few decades old, but I’m not aware of any scientific consensus around when life begins, especially when it comes to the legal rights that embryos should enjoy. If we were to take a poll of Ph.D.-level biologists, I would be surprised if their views on abortion diverged meaningfully from those found in the typical blue state. Ashley and I might believe that life begins at conception, but we should acknowledge that this belief is moral and philosophical, not empirical.

Michael argues that the Mourdock/Akin statements were merely poorly worded. But Rick Santorum—as experienced and skilled a guy as there is in articulating the pro-life view—put it this way to Piers Morgan in 2012: “I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created—in the sense of rape—but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.” Has Santorum articulated his position in a meaningfully different way than Richard Mourdock did his?

Imagine that in 2016, the GOP has chosen Ted Santoryan as its nominee for President. NARAL airs, in every swing state, a 30-second ad in which a rape victim looks into the camera and sorrowfully says, “Six months ago, I was raped. In Ted Santoryan’s America, I wouldn’t be able to take the morning-after pill. I wouldn’t be able to terminate the pregnancy. Ask Ted Santoryan why he believes that rape victims should be required to bear their attackers’ children.” Does the Santoryan campaign have a politically effective response?

Avik Roy — Avik Roy is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP.org), a non-partisan, non-profit think tank.

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