On the Issues: Abortion (Pt. 2)
In the last part, we talked about some overarching concepts regarding the emotional and practical aspects of abortion, with something for each side to consider in how the other half views the issue. The goal was to try and use certain fringe cases as a way to calibrate our moral compasses to be pointing in the same direction before moving onto the heavier stuff.
I also shared a potentially novel tool for viewing the situation in terms of charting human life along an exponential scale of value, suggesting that somewhere along that curve, we each have a point beyond which we can confidently claim the price is too high to stomach termination, though we generally don't agree on where exactly that point is.
In this part, we're gonna delve into more of the moral and philosophical considerations, building on where we left off. If you haven't read the previous article, I strongly encourage you to do so.
One way to view the divide between the anti-abortion camp and the pro-choice camp is in their claim of where the right to life begins. The former says the right to life coincides with conception, whereas pro-choice advocates argue it doesn't come until later. Perhaps one of the most important questions we can ask in the realm of legal philosophy is: where does the right to life begin?
You might be tempted to think, "Well, obviously, it begins when life begins," but it's not so simple as that. Just because something is technically alive doesn't mean it has rights. I'm not even talking about garbage humans either. Cells are alive, but they don't have rights.
Again, in our sliding scale of value from the previous article, we all started out as sperm, which is alive, and had to progress through some nebulous point to go from being worthless and discardable, to being precious and worth protecting.
We already talked about birth and beyond as being a point we all agree is too far. Likewise, I don't think anyone would seriously argue that, preconception, there is any right to life, so that leaves four potential milestones left to discuss:
Ability to feel pain
Viability outside the womb
Let's go in reverse order.
I won't bore you with the details of fetal viability, except to say that it's generally defined as when a fetus has a greater-than-even chance of surviving outside the womb on its own. A point that occurs roughly after twenty-four weeks of gestation, according to present science. I think most reasonable people can agree that abortion after this point would generally be immoral since the fetus no longer needs the mother to survive. It's most definitely it's own person by that stage, so if the mother no longer wants it, she can have it removed and given to something else who does, which would certaintly be preferable to termination.
Steve Crowder brought up the argument in his debate that pro-choice people have a sort of sliding scale with regards to their moral code. Indeed, that's very true, and technology will only continue to improve over time, meaning it's perfectly conceivably that the milestone of viability will slide along with it further back towards conception.
However, that doesn't necessarily lead to the conclusion of the anti-abortion crowd that conception should be the cut-off point. If the mere potential for future technological innovation affected present morality, then it'd be immoral to discard a severed human arm, for instance, just because The Fifth Element has a technology that can regrow whole humans from it:
Or conversely, severing someone's arm would decrease in moral severity because of the ease with which we could simply regrow or reattach it. It'd only be about as bad as breaking a window, which is still not a great thing, but a far cry from assault.
After all, at least part of the reason human life is so valuable, and why assault and murder are such heinous crimes (or even the whole reason), is because of the difficulty, if not impossibility, of reversing the effects. It's a lot different from simply repairing the screen door you punctured, but our conceptions of what is possible are ever evolving.
It's basic supply and demand. Unique humans are hard to replace.
If we project our imaginations far enough, we could even speculate about hypothetical technology that revives the dead, but that shouldn't have any bearing on our present moral value that murder is wrong. We would have to wait for such technology before our moral code can slide with it. So if viability is the point we agree is "here and no further," we can't artificially nudge it forward.
At least not with that line of reasoning.
The next important milestone to test is whether the fetus is able to feel pain or not.
The philosophical argument goes that if an entity can't experience pain, it can't experience harm, from which the moral argument follows that the whole of human law can be summarized in just three simple words: do no harm.
"Sorry, I thought you said: 'First Rule of Fight Club.' "
What constitutes harm is a complex topic with no simple answer; but implicitly, most people would agree that once something can feel harm, that seems like a reasonable point to start raising moral objections.
Conversely, I'm sure we've all seen a scene in some movie, or perhaps even real life, in which a person is neurologically numb in a particular part of their body, and their friends all poke and prod it or set it on fire and do other things that, to most people, would constitute a serious injury; but in this case, because the person is incapable of feeling the sensation of pain, there's no moral issue.
Morality stems from the fact that we humans experience sensations we don't like and would rather not be subjected to them by our fellow humans. Things like bad karma, natural disasters, and other so-called "acts of God" are generally considered amoral rather than immoral, because no human action was involved; and even certain types of accidents are often forgiven because foreknowledge of their harmful consequences is considered unreasonable.
(None of that applies to abortion, of course, I just thought I'd include it for completeness sake.)
Returning to the topic at hand ... apart from an argument in favor of delayed gratification, the question becomes, if a fetus can't experience pain, is it immoral to terminate it when the very foundational principle underpinning human morality is not actually being violated?
In other contexts, it's a very intimately human response, in seemingly all cultures worldwide, to give special deference to the idea of a mercy killing. We implicitly understand it's not necessarily immoral to terminate the life of something experiencing pain that we can't otherwise end. The goal in this case is the cessation of a life of suffering.
How does this compare with abortion, wherein you terminate the life of an entity that not only is incapable of feeling pain, but has never felt pain and never will, so far as we know?
The result is the same: no life and no pain.
Here's where I invoke my rule about what society hasn't resolved in advance of the law, because I don't know the answer and I doubt you do either. The best I can find on short notice is that this point generally occurs at about twenty weeks. Even if that's wrong, we're just down to haggling dates instead of principles.
Ok, so maybe you don't quite feel comfortable with the idea of terminating a life just because it can't feel pain. After all, even if your friends are setting your nerve-dead arm on fire and you're perfectly ok with it, you're still at least supervising the process, giving them your consent, making sure they stay within the narrow limits of acceptability.
But what if you not only didn't feel any adverse effects from their actions, you never even knew they did the deed in the first place? Sure, you might not have lost anything in the process that you now miss and wish you still had; but in hindsight, you might at least feel a bit creeped out by the whole affair once you discovered they snuck behind your back and did something without your permission.
I'm gonna sneak in and replace all the lint behind his dryer with perfect copies of the exact same lint,
all without getting caught or leaving a trace. It's the ultimate crime!
But what if you not only never found out about it in the future, you also never even could? Would you even know what you're missing?
"What you don't know can't harm you," as the saying goes.
However, humans don't just live in a concrete world of the here and now. We have intelligence and the ability to form abstractions for the purpose of imagining potential problems that may arise in the future that we extrapolate based on past experience.
But what if you didn't even have that?
Not only do you not know, could never know, but could never even imagine knowing, because you'd never developed the faculties for such abstract thinking in the first place? Here we now get to the philosophical question of sentience. According to Wikipedia:
Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, and experience subjectively.
In other words, it's the defining quality of what makes you a conscious individual - the part of you that makes you a holistic being capable of experiencing things apart from your role as a component in some other thing. It's the closest secular parallel we have to what might be termed a soul.
Sentience is a complex topic in and of itself, made difficult by the question of how you define, observe, and measure it. Mathematician and philosopher René Descartes was able to work out a proof that one's own consciousness was the only thing you could know with absolute certainty, beyond which everything else was merely speculative.
As far back as humans have been pondering things, we've been asking ourselves what we are, and we still don't have a good answer:
The question of: "What has sentience and when does it get?" is an ancient problem that persists to this day. Do animals have it? Do plants? Do cells? If sperm has it, are we committing mass genocide every hour of everyday?
Most would say no to the last one. Whether that's out of fact or denial is up for debate; but running on the assumption it doesn't whereas a baby clearly does, then we're back to the aforementioned sliding scale of: somewhere along the exponential curve of value, it surely must acquire it.
The religious-minded argue that point is at conception, but they would be at odds with what science generally tells us:
Almost 90% of UK abortions are performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. During this time there is no scientific doubt that the developing fetus is incapable of any form of conscious awareness. The fetal brain does not begin to develop until 3-4 weeks into the pregnancy, at which point it is little more than a hollow tube filled with dividing neurons. Between weeks 4 and 8 this neural tissue grows forming the major divisions of the adult brain (forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain and spinal cord). By 8 weeks recognisable [sic] facial features have developed and the cerebral cortex separates into two distinct hemispheres. By the end of the first trimester (12 weeks) nerve cells are beginning to form rudimentary connections between different areas of the brain. However, these connections are sparse and incapable of performing the same functions as an adult brain. So by 12 weeks, although the fetus is certainly starting to look like a little human, the neural circuits responsible for conscious awareness are yet to develop.
Let's assume for our purposes, it occurs at twelve weeks. Again, pushing it forward or later is merely haggling over dates, not principles. The underlying principle here is: is it immoral to terminate the life of a being that is scarcely even a being at its current stage of development? Even if we accept that it's uniquely human because of its DNA (we'll get to that in a minute), does it necessarily possess a right to life when it not only doesn't know it even exists, but can't known, can never know, and can never even imagine it?
Philosophically, that's a hard sell - one that smacks more of dogma than reason or science.
It's certainly possible that advances in AI and other fields will push our conceptions of human nature forward in time; but we already addressed the problems of applying such moral justifications to the present.
The Law (with a capital-L) deals in what is, not what might be.
Most pro-choice advocates recognize the reasonableness of the four milestones we talked about so far: sentience, pain, viability, and birth. That no one really likes abortions, apart from a few sociopaths; but if they're going to be done, best to do them earlier rather than later, with each successive cut-off point passed being more and more ethically problematic.
Fortunately, society at large seems to reflect that general trend, since most abortions are done sooner, rather than later:
Of the 699,202 abortions reported to the CDC in 2012, 0.17% were at or after 21 weeks and occurred in a state where it was possible to have a post viability abortion for any reason. We know from other data sets that many procedures at or after 21 weeks are for fetal anomalies (some say about 80%) and many of these are before 24 weeks. A review of data from one clinic that does abortions after 24 weeks in a state with no gestational age limit shows a median gestational age of 22 weeks. It is a likely a fair extrapolation that all clinics specializing in later term procedures have a similar medial gestational age. Using all the available data it would be fair to say that at least 50% of the 1,186 procedures are < 24 weeks, but that may be higher.
So for you pro-lifers who wanna nitpick about "that's such a small number of cases" with regards to rape and broken condoms, you can certainly do that; but it seems the "small number" argument applies equally to late-term abortions as well.
Something to think about.
Actual late-term abortions are relatively rare, and most of the late-term abortions are in the seven States [*] plus D.C. where no time limit applies (at least at the time the article I cited was written).
In keeping consistent with my earlier point about stats and moral compass calibration, the anti-abortion crowd will probably argue that even one is too many. Assuming these are not conducted for reasons of lethal fetal anomaly or risk to the mother's health, I think most people would agree with that. It would probably depend on the individual circumstances of each case, but as a general principle, I don't really see anyone on the opposite side of the argument that women who have unnecessary late-term abortions should face some sort of consequence.
But what about the fifth option: conception?
So finally, we get to the issue that separates the anti-abortion crowd from the pro-choice crowd, which is whether the cut-off point should be at conception or at sentience. Hopefully, if you're still reading this, you trust my even-handedness enough by now that I can hazard injecting a bit of my own personal views at this juncture.
Speaking for myself, I've never really heard a good argument for why conception should be the ultimate milestone. I've heard a lot of bad arguments for it based on religious dogmatism. I've likewise heard a lot of secular arguments that sound good, but which come attenuate with other problems as a result.
For starters is an argument I hear oft repeated by the likes of Ben Shapiro and Steve Crowder that a human becomes a unique human at the point of conception as a result of their DNA.
Ok, so what?
That something is a human life doesn't automatically mean it necessarily has the right to life. Certain criminals are human lives whose actions forfeit their right to life.
"Yeah, but that's different because they had to do something first to warrant a negation of their inherent right," I hear you say. Ok, sure. But why there and not one of the other points we discussed? What is the scientific, philosophical, and moral argument for you drawing the line at conception and not sentience? That just seems like an arbitrary cut-off point with no philosophical or moral underpinning.
To be fair, it's a very clearly delineated point that won't change with time or technology, unlike some of the others. It has a hard edge that's easy to define and measure, but that's not a moral argument.
To give you an analogy, it's like saying the age of consent should be eighteen. Well, why? Because we have to pick a point as a society. Sure, I agree, but why that specific point as opposed to any other? Is it based on some biological factor that occurs at that age? No, it's based on legal and social tradition, as it turns out.
We know it's based on tradition because different states and different countries set different ages of consent. Different cultures throughout history have defined adulthood differently, whereas Nature itself says you're an adult as soon as you hit puberty, which happens anywhere between nine and sixteen. It turns out Mother Nature's not one for hard lines - that fickle bitch! Yet most people in modern Western civilized society would be appalled by the idea of someone having sex with a nine-year old.
Just ask Demi Moore, who's currently taking heat for kissing a fifteen-year old when she was nineteen. For context, I lost my virginity at eighteen to a sixteen-year old, which in New Jersey was legal at the time. Did those two years really make a difference? In Mexico, Demi'd be legal, but do we wanna be like Mexico, given that it's an actual rape culture?
So the eighteen-year mark is based on custom, to put it charitably.
Returning to the subject of DNA for a moment, one of the problems with this argument is that humans don't even have their own unique DNA. The human body has ten times as many bacterial cells for every so-called "human" cell, and with things like the chimera effect, it's recently been learned that even those human cells aren't unique within the individual.
I was surprised to learn, just as I'm sure you'd be if you read this article, that:
Approximately one in eight single childbirths are thought to start as multiple pregnancies and occasionally cells from the miscarried siblings are sometimes absorbed in the womb by a surviving twin.
One in eight! Meaning that roughly 12.5% of the time, you're probably not even a unique human being at the point of conception as the anti-abortion crowd would have us believe. There's even a name for this phenomenon. It's called vanishing twin syndrome.
It might even explain a number birthmarks:
Then there's the consequentialist argument, which is normally a logical fallacy, but since we're talking about morality and consequences, I say that's fair game. This is something that Stefan and Steve cleverly skirted around, this question of: Is a woman who takes Plan B guilty of infanticide?
Since we're calibrating our moral compasses, let's start with the most trivial example, irrespective of the practical absurdity of it, just so we can make sure we're at least all on the same page here.
Let's suppose you have a woman who gets knocked up and, the second the zygote firmly implants itself into her vaginal wall, she pops that little white pill and dislodges it within the very next second. Gone, down the drain. By definition, she's committed an abortion on this cluster of questionably-unique cells that don't even know what they are and never will. And to avoid any ambiguity, let's say she did it with perfect knowledge and intent, knowingly and willingly terminating it just because she could.
Is that immoral?
If you're an anti-abortionist, it is; but the question is why? This is the part no one's yet been able to explain to me with any degree of satisfaction, though some have tried, and we'll get to that in a minute.
I can understand the argument for making sentience, pain, viability, and birth the cut-off points. I've yet to hear a convincing argument for why this should be one as well (or indeed even the only dividing line as some would content).
There are two reasons this is problematic. The first is, if we agree it's immoral, well then naturally you have to visit some form of punishment on the mother. Don't you? What sort of punishment would fit this particular crime?
A fine? C'mon, you're calling this murder for God's sake. Step it up a notch!
Alright, how about jail? Does that really seem right for what actually happened here? Someone goes to jail because they killed a few cells? Seems a bit heavy-handed, doesn't it? And if she goes to jail, how long should her sentence be? A day? Thirty days? A year? Fifteen years or more? Should she get a felony record for it? Do we then bar her from owning guns or even voting?
One of the foundational principles of our English Common Law system is that punishments should be proportional to their offenses, because the idea of justice is balance. But try finding a suitable sentence in this case that isn't either a joke or cruel and unusual.
So again, if this act is immoral as anti-abortionists claim, then it can't go unpunished. Justice demands an answer to it.
Most people can't give one because, understandably, any answer makes them feel uncomfortable. It doesn't feel just and I would argue that's because it's not just. Most reasonable people, even most pro-life people, would probably look at this and begrudgingly admit with a heavy sigh, "She did nothing wrong."
Do we agree?
That's not to say there can't be a good argument for why conception should be the cut-off point, I just have yet to come across one, so color me a skeptic. If you feel you have an answer, let me know, but wait until you read the rest of the article before you offer it, because I think I know what your immediate response will be.
For now, let's run on the assumption that we agree the woman did nothing we'd feel comfortable punishing in her choosing to terminate a presentient cluster of cells within the first moments of it making touch down inside her va-jay-jay.
Ok, so how about a second later?
Remember, we started off with a deliberately extreme example to calibrate our moral compasses, and now we're beginning to refine them back towards more realistic ones. Our mother-to-be in the more extreme hypothetical popped the pill as close to the point of conception as physically possible while still technically performing an abortion.
Remember also that we're testing the argument of morality from the point of conception. Nothing else of significance has changed one second later, so if the argument didn't hold up before in the first second, it won't hold up in the second or the third, and so on.
You see the problem here, right?
If the anti-abortion advocates don't stop it in that first moment, they lose the moral authority to claim conception is the cut-off point and the pro-choice camp wins by default.
Ted does kind of look like Eddie Munster, doesn't he?
From there, it's not until the point of sentience - wherever that happens to be - that anything meaningful changes at a scientific or philosophical level and we are thus forced to check-in with our consciences once again. The pro-choice crowd has to then contend with the question of where sentience begins, whereas the anti-abortion crowd has to face the question of what to do in that first second of the woman popping Plan B and justifying some sort of punishment.
The former has a clear moral argument with nebulous application, while the latter has a nebulously moral argument with clear application.
Literally, the entire debate about abortion thus boils down to whether you like hard or soft edges to your morality, in terms of each of theory versus practice. Obviously, the goal would be to settle upon hard edges for both theory and practice. That would certainly be an airtight moral philosophy backed by some solid science, but that's not what we have at the moment, which is why I continually say the law can't rule on what science and philosophy can't answer.
Now, the anti-abortion crowd certainly thinks they have a hard-edged argument, but I'm about to soften it up a bit, much to their chagrin.
(Cue up the Lyin' Ted meme again.)
When all else fails, the argument becomes that abortion is always immoral because of something called human potential. That yes, the life form you terminated might not be sentient, viable, or able to feel pain, but what ultimately makes it so bad is the fact that you snuffed out its potential. That maybe it was just a clump of cells, but there can be no question it was on a trajectory towards all those things and more, short of some unforeseen act of God that resulted in a miscarriage.
Sounds really convincing, doesn't it?
The problem with this argument is, it's dealing in imagination, not reality. Short of physical markers, potential is generally something we project onto things, rather than being inherent qualities. It's also a double-edged sword. Returning to the human value scale, we obviously don't want to abort someone on the trajectory to become the next Marie Curie; but we can't really know in advance if that's the case. It could be just as likely - and perhaps more likely - that said person winds up being not all that great in the end.
There are plenty of exceptions, of course; but statistically speaking, the people who generally seek to get abortions aren't necessarily equipped with the knowledge, tools, and resources to raise real winners to begin with. That's often why they're in this situation they're in, whether they realize it or not, and maybe the kindest thing they can do is spare the world, themselves, and their future progeny from that.
"But what about presumption of innocence?" I hear you say.
Indeed, that'd be a very good argument, except that we're back to the philosophical dilemma of does a non-sentient day-old zygote have presumption of innocence when sperm doesn't? Are women flushing an innocent life down the toilet on a monthly basis, just because her egg has the potential to become something more?
I don't think anyone would pause to do a moral double-take if given the chance to hop in a time machine and abort baby Hitler, for instance.
Baby Hitler did nothing wrong.
You might think that's a horrible thing to say, and indeed I would agree, but unfortunately, the truth is often really horrible.
One of the great controversial findings to come out of the book Freakonomics, for instance, was the correlation between decrease in crime and the rise of abortion (assuming you discount abortion as crime in those statistics). The author makes a fairly persuasive case in ruling out other alternative explanations, and as of my writing this article, I've yet to hear anyone overturn his findings.
Combine that with the fact that many of these women, had they delivered, would likely become single moms. That single moms use a disproportionate amount of welfare compared to the amount paid in taxes, said welfare being is paid for in taxes, and that taxation is a form of systemic oppression. Thus, in not having those children, they actually decreased the overall level of immorality in society (again, if you discount abortion itself as immoral).
So, like it or not, at least by that metric, it would appear as though abortion has had an overall positive effect on society as a whole.
I actually think Ted's a decent guy, so I can get away with doing this for humorous effect.
You're free to disagree with that conclusion, of course, and offer up alternative arguments and facts to try and counter it. I'm just pointing it out in case you hadn't thought about it in those terms before. I'm guessing most of you probably haven't.
Returning to the topic at hand, the Law (again, with a capital-L) doesn't deal in what-ifs, only in what is and what is not.
Is it a human being? Does it have rights in the here and now? Is it sentient? Is it viable? Does it feel pain? Is it capable of being the receiver of an injury (in a legal sense)?
The Law doesn't care about potential. If it did, I could file an insurance claim on the mere potential that a meteor hit my car, since, even though no such event actually happened, it was still within the realm of possibility and there's a non-zero chance it would happen eventually. Obviously, we can see how equating potentiality with actuality would lead to mass chaos.
By now, someone's probably thought to mention that, unlike ejaculation and menstruation, the fertilized zygote is an autonomous process, whereas either one alone could not accomplish the creation of a human being. The Law, after all, does consider opportunity costs as a legitimate form of damages, and evidence of taking active steps taken towards a particular end is more compelling than a "could'a, should'a, would'a."
Anyone can claim they were going to do something, but we're not mind-readers or fortune-tellers, so unless there is corresponding evidence to back up one's intent, we can judge only by words and deeds. Again, the Law looks to the present, not the future.
Remember I said "short of physical markers"? Well, the autonomous process started by fertilization would fall under that category. Still, is that sufficient to hang a moral argument on?
I'll leave such judgments up to you.
One last point before we wrap up, because I know this is long and you're probably tired. Have you noticed throughout this article and the last that I haven't really used the term "pro-life" all that much, instead preferring to frame the debate as being between pro-choice and anti-abortion factions? That isn't an accident.
Much like the term "pro-abortion," the term "pro-life" is misapplied.
You might think I'm referring to the latent hypocrisy of many conservatives who care about what happens to you up to the point of birth, but who then couldn't give a damn about you afterwards, as evidenced by their hawkishness or support for capital punishment, or whatever; but that's not what I'm talking about n this case.
By this point, you probably feel confident in categorizing my own position on the topic of abortion as falling neatly within the pro-choice camp. Indeed, prior to doing some research for this article, I would have agreed with you on that.
And then I found this image:
I give you: The Abortion Continuum.
Note the term "anti-abortion" on the far right, and how this term describes those who don't want abortions under any condition. This is the actual goal of those who identify as "pro-life." Those who believe that life begins at conception. People like Ben Shapiro, Stefan Molyneux, Steve Crowder, Dennis Prager, and the like. The hard-edged theorists who want a hard-edged practice that views it as a moral imperative to punish people for using Plan B.
Pro-choice more or less still means what we think it means; but here again, note that it's not the same as being pro-abortion. Indeed, the mother might still choose life or she might not. Being pro-choice means allowing people the flexibility to make that decision.
My own views fall closer to the middle. What the above chart describes as "pro-life" but defines as allowing for abortions in very limited circumstances. People like Rand Paul fall under this category. I would argue Donald Trump does as well, given his decision to kick the issue to the States, rather than outright ban it. So when they say they're pro-life, they are technically correct.
Indeed, I don't like abortion, as I've said. I'd rather people not do it if at all possible, but I recognize there are times when it could be desirable without causing a moral dilemma. I think most reasonable people would agree with that. So from this point forward, when people ask, I'm going to start labeling myself as pro-life, with that understanding in mind.
This, as it turns out, is actually quite useful in terms of persuasion.
In a recent Periscope video, Master Persuader Scott Adams gave us a look under the hood so to speak, pulling back the curtain on the persuasion game behind some of his own labels he uses for himself. In this case, the reason why he calls himself an ultra-liberal.
Redefining what it means to be pro-life in this way has a similar effect in that it won't be immediately off-putting to the anti-abortion crowd. They won't have a knee-jerk reaction of calling you a baby murderer for saying you're pro-choice and that will bypass their emotional filters, allowing you to pace them long enough to get your more moderate examples across like I've done in this article.
In the same way, it will serve as something of an initial bid for the pro-choice crowd, allowing you to take the moral high ground and then let them feel confident in the belief that they were able to walk you back to a more reasonable compromise (which is where you were the whole time). I'm reasonably confident that politicians like Trump and Rand know this is what they're doing when they refer to themselves as pro-life.
So, if the Wiki writers need to call me something, I prefer the term "pro-life."
So we looked at both sides of the debate more or less even-handedly. Hopefully, the several examples I provided helped calibrate everyone's moral compasses; and if I did my job well, we're pretty much all in agreement at this point. About the only remaining sticking point in terms of morality is between the conception line and the sentience line.
I'd like to end this article with some final thoughts in terms of practical considerations.
No one likes abortions, no one looks forward to them, and no one ever get one if they had reasonable alternatives. In this case, I think an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. Education is the first step, recognizing that we don't live in Puritanical times. People are fallible animals programmed by our emotions and desires, and will have sex whether you like it or not. We can certainly encourage people to exercise discipline, abstinence, and self-restraint whenever possible, but to leave it at that is frankly untenable. So we need to educate people that alternatives exist.
Practicing safe sex is important. Guys, that means condoms. Women, that means the pill, sponges, and various other forms of contraceptives available to you.
Honest communication between sexual partners is important. Don't be an idiot. Don't fuck someone you aren't sure you can trust. That said, in a practical sense, the women are the keepers of the birth control since they know better their own cycle. Guys, you need to be proactive in asking her about this and in following what she says. I know it's hard to think when you're horny, that you're more prone to taking risks, but if she tells you there's a problem with her regular birth control and you need to strap on a condom, then you follow her lead.
Trust me, it's better than the alternative. Your dick won't be happy, but your wallet will thank you.
Having said that, ladies, if you think you might be at risk of having an unwanted pregnancy, consider popping Plan B right away. That's what it's there for. If you get raped, I certainly wouldn't begrudge you for taking it (and we can talk about ways to deal with that another time).
As a society, we need to foster an environment in which it's ok to talk about these issues. To do more at a social level to provide care and guidance for women, and young adults especially, through voluntary means in order to avoid the forced association and moral hazard that comes from pursuing this via legal means, including the use of public funding through taxation (which is theft).
We should adopt an attitude of "discourage and defund."
So while I wouldn't go so far as to take abortion completely off the table, I would advise women to consider alternatives in the form of adoption whenever possible, and giving reciprocal consideration to those conscientious objectors who would rather their tax dollars not be used to pay for a procedure they disagree with at a moral level.
In general, if you get pregnant and are unsure about it, find someone you can talk to. Restoring family values - and families in general - will go a long way to ending the need for abortions in the first place. Lastly, if you absolutely must have an abortion, it's better to do it sooner, rather than later, to avoid the ever steepening moral decline. I feel it should be an option of last resort, but given all that goes into such a decision, if such advice has been adhered to and that's still the conclusion reached, then I think the rest of us should just accept that without contempt, reserving judgment and punishment for those who knowingly and willfully refused to be so considerate.
Those are my thoughts. Let me now what you think.
* As a personal note, I'm ashamed of the fact that my home State of New Jersey tops the list in that regard.