American Politics and Abortion

International status of abortion law UN 2013 report on abortion law. (Blue is legal.)

There is no doubt that much of the anti-abortion rhetoric comes from a punitive, puritanical desire to punish people for having sex. Many are also hypocritical on the issue, simultaneously opposing abortion as well as the only proven majors of reducing it—good sex education and readily available birth control. As for self-interested conservative politicians, their public opposition is obviously hypocritical. Generally they don’t care about the issue—they care about the power and wealth derived from politics—but they pretend to do so by throwing red meat to their constituencies. While they may be pro-birth, they aren’t pro-life—since they vigorously oppose helping children after they are born by denying them adequate education, health-care, economic opportunities, etc.

In the end rational discourse is the only violence free way to resolve moral controversies in a morally pluralistic society. To the extent they cannot be resolved, the political solution of American democracy has been to allow individuals to hold to their beliefs, but never to impose them on others unless clear harm was being done to others. (John Stuart Mill’s “harm principle.”) In the case of fetuses, the otherness cannot be established. Hence there is no justification to force your metaphysical beliefs about the moral status of an unknown conceptus on your fellow citizens. Moreover, ethicists who have studied the issue in detail overwhelming support the pro-choice view.

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