REDUCING UNWANTED PREGNANCIES AND THE INTERESTS OF WOMEN. Brother Ezra links to a good article by Reason's Julian Sanchez about demands for compromise in the abortion debate. Readers who are familiar with my work on the subject will know that I agree entirely with Sanchez' opposition to trying to find "middle ground" on the abortion debate. Both of the general lines of "compromise" being advanced -- insisting that abortion is icky and women who get abortions are immoral, and passing a series of regulations that end up creating a highly inequitable regime of abortion-on-demand for affluent women and highly restricted abortion for poor and many rural women -- are very bad on the merits, and represent a practical victory for the forced pregnancy lobby rather than true compromises. I'm not willing to claim that fetuses are "persons," not only because I think it's nonsense but because the vast majority of pro-lifers don't seem to believe it, or at least are not willing to advance policies that are even minimally consistent with such a belief. I also agree with Sanchez's general point that sometimes conflicts are incommensurable and we should accept that; you simply can't split the difference over the question of fetal personhood the way you can about tax policy.

However, I do think it's worth noting that it's possible to believe that 1)abortion is a morally arbitrary procedure that should be left to a woman's judgment, and 2)it is good, all things being equal, for there to be fewer abortions. Nobody would dispute that it would be better for people to change habits so that there would be fewer open-heart surgeries, but this hardly constitutes a good case for making them illegal or calling them immoral. I think almost everyone can agree that preventing unwanted pregnancies before the fact is, all things being equal, preferable to women having to go through an expensive and sometimes troubling medical procedure. If pointing out that the bundle of pro-choice policies -- legal, accessible abortion, access to birth control, rational sex ed, good child care politics, etc. -- generally produce lower abortion rates is a way of reaching compromise with the voters Amy Sullivan talks about, I don't have a problem with that. If the "compromise" involves the Saletan-like shaming of women or supporting arbitrary regulations that choke abortion access for (certain classes of) women, that's an entirely different story. (Sullivan does have some pretty harsh criticism of the idiotic "partial-birth" ban currently under Supreme Court review in this BloggingHeads vlog, so we may very well be closer to consensus than is sometimes apparent.)

--Scott Lemieux

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