Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 26, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

ABORTION....In the course of criticizing Howard Dean (and me for agreeing with him), Nathan Newman reminds me that I should clarify how I personally feel about abortion. There's no special reason for this except that I've never really done it, and I figure my readers should know where I stand.

It's simple: I think pre-viability abortion should be entirely unregulated except to the extent that similar medical procedures are regulated. Fetuses are not human life in any meaningful sense, and aborting them is morally neutral. Legally, the decision to get an abortion should be completely up to the woman seeking it. No one else gets to tell her whether she should or shouldn't be allowed to have one.

So that's that. Note that this position also explains the two limitations on abortion that I (rather wishy-washily) support: parental notification and third trimester restrictions. I sympathize with parental notification laws because minors aren't allowed to undergo other medical procedures without notifying their parents, so I'm not sure why abortion should be any different. Minors aren't adults, and aren't presumed to have the judgment of adults.

Third trimester restrictions strike me as reasonable because there has to be some point at which a fetus legally becomes an independent human being, and viability seems like it's the right point. However, since viability is a fuzzy boundary, and common sense dictates a firm rule, I'd pick the third trimester as a convenient and easy demarcation. After that point, I accept limitations on the right to abortion.

I'm aware that other groups use these arguments for less savory purposes, and I'm also aware that I'm skipping a bunch of details including my firm belief that most anti-abortion rhetoric is a demagogic reaction against sexual (and economic) freedom for women, not something based on a genuine desire to save human life. Some other time, perhaps.

At the same time, though, I still think that Howard Dean's "anti-busybody" approach to the issue is a good one for a couple of reasons. First, not everyone agrees with me that abortion is morally neutral, but they might nonetheless agree that basic considerations of privacy and personal choice mean that people should be allowed to make their own moral choices in this matter without government interference. Second, it provides an appealing umbrella approach to a lot of social issues, which I think is better than having a hodgepodge of rationales aimed at a bunch of unrelated special interests.

Fire away.

Kevin Drum 3:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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