Abortion and Public Reason
This morning I was able to watch our latest Leaguecast and enjoyed the conversation on public reason. There are a lot of takeaways, but I wanted to quickly speak to a point raised in the conversation. Around the 47:00 mark Erik Kain talks about the future of the abortion debate in the U.S. I agree 100% with his assessment that it is never really going to go away as long as there is some form of abortion. That opinion is based on the reality that some people, myself included, are absolutists on the pro-life side. We aren’t going to accept anything other than a full ban. On the other side of the aisle there are pro-choice absolutists, however their room to maneuver is shrinking.
As Erik points out and others allude to, the definition of viability is key in a rationale discussion of abortion. Right now most Americans are uncomfortable with abortions in the third term and a growing number of Americans have extended that discomfort to second term abortions. The reason is that medical technology is making viability possible much earlier in pregnancies and, I believe, 3D ultrasounds are ‘humanizing’ fetuses for some people. The next step, as discussed in the video, is the idea of artificial wombs which would remove the viability argument that many pro-choice folks use.
Obviously artificial wombs could potentially create millions of new wards of the state, so there are many ethical discussions which would come with that, but the point is that viability is a slippery thing. That means that science is a slippery justification for abortion when used by the pro-choice crowd. That basically leaves us with public reason as the justification for legal abortion. Pro-choicers will fall back on the argument that a woman should be able to make choices about their body freely. This is not a scientific argument but an ethical one. Roe vs. Wade says that our laws, built on a social agreement (public reason), provide women with that right. In that sense there is a weird reversal of roles where there could come a day that the pro-choice side has to rely on public reason alone while the pro-life crowd can actually support their argument with science. This is stereotypically unusual for many Right/Left social debates and, I think, an interesting development I look forward to.