In the United States, the courts treat abortion as a
constitutional right through all nine months, for any reason, and that has been
the law since 1973. It’s shocking how many defenders of the Supreme Court’s
abortion decisions do not know this.
confusing in the extreme. The Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade made it seem as if it was only talking about abortions
before viability, saying that the states, if they wished, could make late
abortion illegal. But in Roe vs. Wade’s
companion case, Doe vs. Bolton, the
High Court created a “health” loophole that effectively crushed the states’
ability to make third trimester abortions illegal. (Pro-life policymakers hang their hats on
language in Gonzales v. Carhart, the
partial-birth abortion case, to defend 20-week bans—but the Supreme Court has
not yet addressed the issue directly.)
I debate pro-choicers, I always make a point of clarifying the current state of
the law right off the bat. Often, they won’t believe me! I then follow up with
some questions: “If that was the law and you did not know it, would that prove
that the media and educational systems are not doing their job?” “If I did show
you that abortion is legal through all nine months, for any reason, and has been
since 1973, would you oppose that law?” (These questions usually elicit a lame
out the extremism of our current law is important because it frames the debate.
Rarely do people support the law as it is; polling consistently shows that those who
believe abortion should be “legal in all cases” are in the minority. But people
are more likely to condemn the law if I explain it to them after they have said what their
desired law is.
“middle-of-the-road” position—that some abortions should be legal, but not
others—is very difficult to defend. To successfully oppose any abortion and advocate for at least some unborn babies, you have to abandon arguments that demand
nine-month abortion under all circumstances. Consider the following common
- The government has no right to make abortion
- A woman’s right to control her body grants her
the right to abort.
- The fetus is not a person until birth.
- Criminalizing abortion will lead to the deaths
of women in “back-alley” abortions.
- Only the woman and her doctor get to decide.
- Children are expensive and burdensome to the
woman, family, and society.
six contentions above make up the entire core pro-choice argument. If you don’t believe them, you’re not really pro-choice,
and if you do, you are a nine-month pro-choicer. But often, when
people use these arguments, they are unwittingly insisting upon abortions they themselves
don’t even support! Where many anti-abortion people will try to disprove the
core arguments, I will simply point out that the pro-choicer I’ve debating does
not actually believe them (unless I’m talking to a nine-month extremist).
the legalization of some abortions believes that:
- The government has the right and obligation to
legally protect at least some unborn children from abortion.
- A woman’s right to control her body does not
necessarily grant her the right to abort and kill her child.
- The unborn is a baby with rights before he or
she is born.The threat of back-alley abortions is not
serious, or if it is, it’s less important than the protection of at least some unborn
- Men like me and people like you sometimes have
the right and obligation, through the government, to prevent women from
- The fact that an unborn child is expensive and
burdensome does not necessarily justify killing him or her.
There are obvious
practical problems with drawing a line, with trying to protect some unborn
children while killing others. Third
month, fourth month, fifth month, sixth … can the killing be contained? Are we to have nurses stand by with calendars
and stopwatches saying, “Kill the fetus now, Doctor, while you still have
time. You have ten seconds … five, four,
three, two, one … Murder!”
“middle-of-the-road” pro-choicer must say to his or her peers, “You do not have
the right to kill these unborn children”… which is rather difficult to do while
he or she is also saying, “I have the right to kill these other unborn