Abortion concerns direct ending of human life

By Paul Murray

“You can’t legislate morality.” That was the refrain with which segregationists in the 1950s and 1960s sought to explain their opposition to civil rights legislation.
Luckily there were more people who believed that, though we may not be able to legislate morality, we can certainly legislate behavior. The results included the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a number of other measures intended to guarantee equality under the law.
I haven’t noticed a lot of sentiment for rolling back these attempts at “legislating morality.”
By Paul Murray

“You can’t legislate morality.” That was the refrain with which segregationists in the 1950s and 1960s sought to explain their opposition to civil rights legislation.
Luckily there were more people who believed that, though we may not be able to legislate morality, we can certainly legislate behavior. The results included the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a number of other measures intended to guarantee equality under the law.
I haven’t noticed a lot of sentiment for rolling back these attempts at “legislating morality.”
In a recent edition of the Journal, columnist Jennifer Erchul claimed that morality should have nothing to do with abortion law. While I share her skepticism about the wisdom of attempting to legislate morality in many areas (the Sunday “Blue Laws” of my childhood come to mind), I think her proposal to rule out of bounds any moral considerations relating to abortion law is a terrible idea.
The issue of abortion concerns the direct ending of human life. It involves fundamental questions relating to personhood and the hierarchy of rights. Abortion law (or lack of it) has implications for other important legal issues, such as parental rights, assisted suicide and end-of-life matters.
If there is another legal question which more urgently requires us to apply moral insight and judgment, I don’t know what it is.
Demanding that we divorce abortion law from morality is the act of one who’s happy with the status quo. Were “Roe v. Wade” to be reversed and the legality of abortion decided by the states, Erchul would probably be arguing for legalization, and her arguments would be moral ones. So would the arguments of those on the other side.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. All good law has some moral basis.
After thus trying to eliminate any moral objections to abortion by fiat, Erchul attempts to do the same with the inconvenient medical record. She cites some glowing statistics from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, testifying to the safety of the abortion procedure. Now I think statistics are of very limited use in helping us decide what to do, but since Erchul has raised the “abortion is safer than childbirth” canard, four things need to be said in response.
First, the Alan Guttmacher Institute is the research division of Planned Parenthood, which is the largest abortion provider in the world. I don’t know how much faith Erchul places in the Guttmacher figures, but I hope she’ll forgive the rest of us for taking them with a grain of salt.
Second, abortion is the most under-reported medical procedure performed in the United States. There are “no” reliable statistics on complications or even deaths due to abortion. Not even the Center for Disease Control has them. Believing pie-in-the-sky figures provided by the abortion industry, when that industry is not required to report problems and has an enormous financial stake in “not” reporting them, is the most wishful of thinking.
Third, if you’re going to use statistics, you should be willing to consider those which may not lead to the conclusion you want. There are many studies from many sources which paint a less rosy picture of abortion’s aftermath than does Erchul.
Briefly stated, there is ample documentation of the following short and long-term risks for women who undergo an abortion: future ectopic (tubal) pregnancies, pelvic inflammatory disease, breast cancer, placenta previa in later pregnancies, subsequent premature births, infertility, acute feelings of grief, depression, increased alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide.
I’d be happy to provide citations. This data isn’t too hard to find, however.
Finally, Erchul makes the same chilling assumption that many other abortion apologists do. She compares the safety of abortion with childbirth, as if their outcomes were equivalent or even comparable. But, of course, they aren’t. The outcome of a successful delivery is a living baby, the outcome of a successful abortion, a dead one.
To speak of the relative “safety” of abortion and delivery without reference to the life or death of the child is to miss the point in a big way. The life of the child is not a footnote.
But women who undergo an abortion know this. Erchul gives a nod in the direction of the agonizing misgivings and regret that women experience when she mentions no one “is proud of their abortions.” She might follow that thought a little further, and consider that perhaps this is a manifestation of the moral dimension of abortion that she seeks to exclude from the debate.
Sweeping the morality of abortion under the rug serves nobody, least of all a society which must weigh the true costs of abortion in reestablishing a legal and moral system which will keep women, in Erchul’s words, “safe and protected from unnecessary harm.”

Paul Murray is a Pocatello resident.