Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pro-Life People Should Support Planned Parenthood

Well that is the silliness the pro-choice brain trust at Slate is trying to spin. Ross Douthat throws some cold water on the idea at Is Planned Parenthood Pro-Life?

He makes a rather astute observation also that can be related to the Pro -Lifers For Obama crowd and the arguments we heard from them the past year

The interaction between public policy and social trends is highly complex, and very difficult to predict, and thus there are any number of policy choices that can be plausibly said bear on the abortion rate, for good or ill. The distribution of contraception is just a small part of the pantomime.

Which means that once you take the legal debate over the rights of the unborn out of the picture, and start redefining being pro-life as "pursuing lower abortion rates through policy choices," almost any policy preference can be re-cast as "pro-life."

Married women tend to have fewer abortions, so clearly ending the marriage penalty was the most pro-life measure of the last fifteen years! But wait: There's evidence that increases in state-level Medicaid funding correlate with lower abortion rates in the short term - so maybe liberal Democrats are real pro-lifers! But wait again: Welfare reform and the economic boom of the 1990s correlated with plunging abortion rates, so maybe free-market conservatives are the real pro-lifers! But wait again: Maybe the abortion rate fell in the 1990s because the sort of women who would have grown up to have abortions were themselves aborted in the post-Roe 1970s ... so people who favor maximizing the abortion rate, paradoxically, turn out to be the real pro-lifers!

You can play this game ad infinitum. If the definition of being pro-life is "desiring the sort of circumstances that tend to reduce the abortion rate," than almost everybody is pro-life, because almost everybody thinks that their favored positions on trade, government spending, tax policy, the minimum wage and so forth will lead to better socioeconomic outcomes overall - and better socioeconomic outcomes overall will probably lead to fewer women seeking abortions.

Now I'm obviously happy to have broad debates about public policy, and I certainly think that pro-lifers should be interested in crafting a broadly pro-family politics in addition to seeking a more pro-life legal regime. But the pro-life cause is primarily about issues of law, morality and justice, and if pro-lifers treat the broader pursuit of socioeconomic progress as a substitute for, rather than a complement to, the pursuit of legal protections for the unborn, then they've given up on their movement's raison d'etre to no good effect.

Pro-lifers can and should be willing to compromise within the debate about how the law should treat unborn human life, by agreeing to legal regimes that stop short of their ultimate goal. But a "compromise" that involves giving up on that debate entirely in favor of arguments over which domestic-policy interventions will reduce the abortion rate on the demand side is no compromise at all: It would strip the pro-life movement of its purpose, drain it of its idealism, and transform it into an advocacy group for, well, good public policy, which practically every other political movement and organization claims to be already.

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