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The return of an old pro-abortion argument

Pro-lifers need to be ready to counter it

A pro-life protester outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Miss., the day before the announcement of the Dobbs decision Associated Press/Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

The return of an old pro-abortion argument
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With the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision reversing Roe v. Wade, there will be a predictable revival of a pro-abortion argument in the aftermath—but with a trendy 2022 twist. The older version argued that before Roe led to the legalization of abortion in the United States in 1973, wealthy women had the means to travel abroad to have legal abortions. Women of lower economic status did not have that option. It follows that protections for the unborn in the United States privilege the wealthy and discriminate against the poor. Abortion, therefore, should be legal and accessible to all if we are to have an equitable society.

With Roe reversed and the question of abortion moving to the states, with some protecting the unborn and others not, the argument will likely sound like this: Rich women can cross state lines to have an abortion with more economic ease than poor women, yielding disparate outcomes. If the trajectory of left-wing arguments over the last several years is any indicator, then mark my words: This argument will be racialized. The overthrow of Roe will be interpreted as the next damning case in point that white supremacy pervades America.

Commentators of the same cloth as those who thought Elon Musk’s quest to buy Twitter was motivated by “white power” will likely attempt to turn this historic moment for the rights of preborn humans into another example of America’s love affair with systemic racism. The irony of the fact that the greedy abortion industry has terminated somewhere between 17 million and 19 million black lives since 1973 will likely be lost on such pundits, as will their political alliance with a government-funded organization founded by a woman with an expressed mission to “exterminate the negro population.” What more can be said to address the racialized arguments against the Dobbs decision? I offer three counterpoints.

First, the argument assumes what it is trying to prove, namely, that abortion is a moral good. Only if we view abortion as a positive benefit does it follow that equal access to it constitutes a desirable outcome. Rich women have the means to hire a hit man, whereas poor women don’t have financial access to such “professionals.” Does it follow logically that we should legalize the murderer-for-hire industry simply to resolve this inequality? Of course not. What the economic discrimination argument dodges is the rudimentary question of whether abortion is good or evil.

The overthrow of Roe will be interpreted as the next damning case in point that white supremacy pervades America.

Second, the argument adds pain to the already aching. Living in poverty is a terrible burden, one that disproportionately affects black Americans, who, according to data from the Federal Reserve, average 10 cents to every dollar that white Americans possess. Christians should join the historic church in caring for women who find themselves in such straits. Yet abortion is hardly a solution to such suffering. A massive 14-year study found that 81 percent of women who had an abortion were more likely to experience mental health problems. The Medical Science Monitor “Induced Abortions and Traumatic Stress” study revealed that 64 percent of women who seek abortions said they felt pressured by others to have one, more than half thought that abortion was “morally wrong,” less than 1 percent said they felt better about themselves, 77.9 percent felt guilt, and 59.5 percent felt that “part of me died.” That doesn’t even account for the physical toll the multibillion-dollar, profit-maximizing abortion industry has inflicted on female image-bearers. Pro-life feminist scholar Sidney Callahan has built a compelling case that abortion hurts women, physically, psychologically, and politically. Why add even more pain and trauma to women already languishing in poverty?

Third, the argument fails to seriously reckon with the personhood of the preborn. French geneticist Jerome LeJeune sums up the conclusive science: “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence.” Pro-abortion advocate Mary Anne Warren admits, “The fact that restricting access to abortion has tragic side effects does not, in itself, show that the restrictions are unjustified since murder is wrong regardless of the consequences of prohibiting it.” If the unborn are human persons, this argument is equivalent to saying that society must make murder equally accessible to everyone.

As Cardinal Roger Mahony famously put it, “Any society, any nation is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members—the last, the least, the littlest.” It’s up to us to make the counterarguments on their behalf.

Thaddeus Williams

Thaddeus Williams is the author of the best-selling book Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice (Zondervan/HarperCollins, 2020). He serves as associate professor of systematic theology for the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and resides in Orange County, Calif., with his wife and four kids.

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