Your Lying Eyes

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13 March 2006

Outlawing Abortion

As everyone knows, South Dakota has outlawed abortion. Abortion is probably a bad thing for society - it encourages - or rather, removes the principal deterrent to pre-marital sex which, outside of the brief fun the participants are having while engaging in it, provides no benefit to society while contributing many lasting problems - delayed or premature marriage, diseases (some deadly, many costly, many leading to infertility), and ill-advised pregnancies. Abortion of course directly mitigates the last of these, but a look at birth and abortion statistics indicates that the vast majority of abortions are of pregnancies that wouldn't have occurred if the option were not available.

Still, I'm afraid that pro-lifers are fooling themselves here if they think this is a good development. Sure, nowadays even poor South Dakotans can get themselves to another state to get an abortion, so I don't think metal-hanger scenarios are too likely just yet. But a pregnant woman who really does not want to have that baby is going to get an abortion - somehow or other. How is the state going to stop her? They can threaten to revoke an abortionist's license, but then there will be an abortion black market. Then you have to start throwing people in jail.

If you, as a citizen, feel something should be made illegal, understand what you're saying: you're saying that people who do the things you want to make illegal can be killed for doing it. That's what's ultimately involved, because when we make an activity illegal - whether it's smoking pot, viewing child pornography, talking on cell phones while driving, or performing abortions - we're sending men with guns to stop it, and if the perpetrators resist, the guys with the guns may kill them.

You can't just declare something illegal and expect it to stop - it must be enforced, and that means using force. As a society, we just love to make things illegal and then rely on the police and prosecutors to use sound judgement in only going after the really bad guys. Not always a good idea. I sympathize with the desire to end abortion, but it's not going to work and is an unnecessary distraction from other more pressing problems.


Blogger Manhattan Transfer said...

While you are right that we are ultimately talking about the use of force, I think that it doesn't make sense to ignore entirely the teaching function of the law. Take the widespread requirement that people use seatbelts. I initially opposed this requirement on the usual libertarian grounds (and still might if I thought it was useful to give it very much thought).

Nonetheless, let's agree that tery few (if any) people have had to be slain by law enforcement officers in order to enforce these laws. It seems to me that the prospect of enforcement (usually through fines) helped focussed people's attention on seatbelts, and that many people now use them not just to avoid fines but because they have been persuaded that they are useful. Part of this persuasion came in the form of the public commitment embodied in the requirement.

Law works on psychological as well as physical levels.

March 14, 2006 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, surely you acknowledge that the pre-Roe abortion rate was only a fraction of what it is today, which is an eye-popping 25% (approx) of all pregnancies.

March 14, 2006 2:35 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Yes, well, I didn't really mean to sound like a refugee from Ruby Ridge - I am not a libertarian. Still, I feel many don't think about the consequences of 'outlawing' something. True, most pro-choicers never consider the huge negatives of on-demand abortion, either. If you were going to experiment, South Dakota isn't a bad place to start. But I am pretty sure that once actual prosecutions start taking place, it'll be all over. However well the psychological effects of the law might work, the physical effects - prison - will doom it, I fear.

March 14, 2006 8:11 PM  
Blogger A Girl From Texas said...

Good post. Abortions really have little to no affect on anyone's life. We are only made aware of someone having an abortion by the screaming pro-lifers.

You might find this interesting.

March 18, 2006 3:35 AM  
Blogger ziel said...

GFT - that was an interesting article. Certainly abortion - like so many things - is a topic where people can hold astoundingly contrarian views in their heads simultaneously. And I think it helps point out why criminalizing it is not going to work.

But as far as abortions not having an effect on anyone's life, I don't know about that - unless you mean people other than the aborter. But indirectly, I'm pretty sure that abortion has had a really bad effect on society in removing the only deterrent to sex that many young people understand. But the genie is out of the bottle - there's no stuffing it back in.

March 19, 2006 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Antiabortion types act schizophrenic. They don't want aborted babies, but then they feel they have no need to pay for those babies if they are carried to term. They want to reduce abortions but at the same time want to deny birth control to the people who are most likely to have abortions.

Call up jesus, ask his advice and make up your minds already!

March 26, 2006 8:00 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Antiabortion types act schizophrenic

I don't think they're being inconsistent. What they really don't want is people being irresponsible with human life - they don't want people having babies and then expecting taxpayers to support it and then don't want people getting pregnant and then aborting it. Welfare and abortion both encourage pre-marital sex - so opposing both makes sense. If I thought outlawing abortion would actually succeed, I'd agree with them. But I don't think it can work because I don't think the inevitable black-market and the harsh enforcement measures needed to contain it will be acceptable. The populace would rather have abortion and high rates of pre-marital sex than that.

March 27, 2006 7:05 PM  
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