Posts Tagged abortion

When no one should decide

I related in a previous post why I thought that abortion should be made legal. My contention was that the government should not be making the decisions. I thought that people would be able to make far better decisions for themselves. Here, however, is a case that defies that logic.

Here we have an 11-year-old girl raped by her mother’s boyfriend with her mother’s knowledge, who is now pregnant in a country that does not allow abortions. The girl is too young and too traumatised to make her own decisions. The government has its own dogmatic stance and does not seem to care for the very real health risks this girl will face. The mother has shown herself to be unworthy of caring for mould, much less a child, and so should have no say. There is a grandmother, but allowing this decision to be taken unilaterally by her could still leave the girl scarred for life (having your child killed on your grandmother’s order can be emotionally debilitating, probably). What if there were no grandmother?

No one is fit to decide. And yet a decision needs to be made. Perhaps a special committee can decide independently of the government (like a special court for deciding what needs to be done). This committee could take into account the views and beliefs of the girl, the relatives of the girl, and the medical risks to both the girl and her unborn. This is, I think, the least horrible of the options. But it is far from desirable.

It’s a situation to break your heart.


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Pro-life? Have you been asking the right question?

I think that often, in the pro-choice vs pro-life debate people ask the wrong question. The question we should ask is not “Is abortion right or wrong?” The answer to this question is of course of great personal relevance and it is a very important question, but like the question of whether there is a God, I believe it is one that must be left to individuals to answer for themselves.

Whether abortion is right or wrong is a hard question and it ultimately involves drawing an indistinct and necessarily arbitrary line between what is considered sacred human life and what is not. The Catholic church, banning contraception, draws the line at one extreme. There are even people who advocate killing babies that have already been born can be justified (see here), who take the other extreme. The point is that the answer to this question depends on your personal ethical, moral, and religious convictions and that there is good, well-reasoned (even if not unassailable) justification for many viewpoints.

So instead of asking a hard question, let us ask an easier one: “Should the government be allowed to decide whether abortion is right or wrong?” If you accept that the government should be secular, that is that it should not support any one religious view over others, then you might agree with me that the answer is no. Both secularists (often pro-choice) and Catholics (notably pro-life) should be able to live in accordance with their views.

Because the question is so hard and because each individual abortion case is different, legislation is going to be a blunt and unwieldy tool. If you forbid abortion entirely, you also forbid abortion where it would save the mother’s life. As soon as you start making exceptions, you create grey areas, uncertainty. You cannot possibly account for the myriad of circumstances which people may face. There will be unintended consequences such as illegal abortion clinics (yes, this is in fact inevitable) where safety standards cannot be enforced. And you deny people the right to make a very important and difficult choice.

Like free market economists, I believe better outcomes can be attained by giving people as much freedom as possible, only intervening when the market or, in this case social norms and structures, clearly fail. This is why making murder illegal is necessary. The consequences of not doing so may be total anarchy, an inability for society to function because no one feels safe. This is not the case with abortion. Nor is it the case with assisted suicide, to which I think the same principles should be applied. The ones best placed to make the decision are the ones closest to it: they are emotionally invested, they have the most information and their futures depend on it.

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