An End to Abortion
The abortion issue is one of the most controversial and divisive subjects today. Everyone has an opinion about it, and everyone’s opinions are strongly and unshakably held. It divides liberals and conservatives, and also divides many of the different factions in the conservative movement.
Right now, the pro-life position is the dominant one in the Republican party, as it must be, if the GOP wants to win elections. There are a lot of people in the Republican party—Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, as well as millions (perhaps tens of millions) of social conservative voters—who feel strongly about abortion, and would like nothing more than to see it banned.
It won’t be, at least not in the near future. No democratic government can act in advance of the moral will of its people. And the American people support legalized abortion.
A 2006 Rasmussen poll has some revealing findings about America’s attitude towards abortion. A solid majority (55%) believes that abortion is usually morally wrong; a relatively insignificant 32% disagree. (One wonders how the other twenty percent feel—do they have an opinion they are afraid to share, or are they simply unable to decide?). So far, the findings look encouraging for pro-lifers.
But when asked about their feelings towards legalized abortion, people feel differently. Only 47% feel that it is too easy to get an abortion in the United States, and 42% feel that the difficulty of getting an abortion is either “too hard” or “about right.” And bear in mind that the United State’s abortion laws are very lax—it is already quite easy to get an abortion.
Granted, this is only one poll, but it is consistent with other polls on this issue. And it is backed up by the behavior of actual voters. South Dakota, hardly a liberal mecca, has twice (in 2006 and 2008) attempted to pass referendums outlawing abortion. Both failed, by sizeable margins. And South Dakota is a very conservative state.
It seems that most Americans are uncomfortable with the morality of abortion—but like having the option available. In a sense, both the pro- and anti-abortion sides lose—abortion is still considered wrong by most people, but will remain legal for the foreseeable future.
Will abortion ever become illegal? I believe it will, and future Americans will be shocked that it was ever widely accepted. But this will only happen once it becomes obsolete and no longer needed.
It’s a pattern—people awaken to injustice only after whatever use the wrong served is no longer needed. The abolitionist movement existed since our nation’s creation—but only became widespread after advances in technology rendered slavery unnecessary. (True, many of the Founding Fathers personally opposed slavery, but caved when Southern states objected to any proscriptions on the practice). Before the Industrial Revolution (which brought many agricultural innovations), slavery was accepted by most as a necessary evil. After the Industrial Revolution, more and more people came to support abolition.
The same phenomenon can be seen with the history of Jim Crow laws. In the first half of the twentieth century, it was beneficial for white Southerners to keep blacks in poverty—there wasn’t much of an economic pie in the South, and it profited whites to keep blacks from too much prosperity and power.
After World War II, the economy boomed, and there was more to go around. It was at that point that integration became a popular cause with whites. Segregation wasn’t needed anymore, so it was phased out, with a great deal of moral indignation by abruptly morally offended whites.
A final example: environmentalism. People have been concerned about the environment since the advent of technology—it’s not hard to find Victorian writers, for example, complaining about factory pollution. But nobody cared much—until relatively clean energy came along. Suddenly, the survival of our fragile plant became the most pressing issue imaginable.
I believe that we will see a similar pattern with abortion. Eventually, medical advances will make birth control one hundred percent reliable, to the point that there will be almost no unintended pregnancies. Then, people will have their eyes opened, and realize what a horrible and frankly unnecessary crime abortion is. After a short but morally heartening battle, abortion will be prohibited, giving people a valuable chance to feel good about themselves.
I hope I’m wrong. But given our current political climate, it seems like my scenario is all too plausible.