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There’s only one topic to write about today. (2/30)
It's a sad day.
There are a few hot-button issues that we have continued to debate for a long time without reaching a clear consensus: things like health care, economic systems, drug policy, and immigration. This makes sense; these issues are complicated and nuanced, and there are generally strong arguments and good data on both sides.
Abortion falls into this category for different reasons. It’s emotionally charged because it deals with the definition and potential of human life. The argument by its nature doesn’t have a middle ground because the groups on each side of the fence are essentially talking about different things. It’s less ‘point/counterpoint’ and more ‘you’re missing the point’.
Issues like this require us to return to first principles thinking. Here is my reasoning for being strongly in favor of a woman’s right to choose and strongly opposed to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade:
When considering any sort of legislation, we need to consider the impact on the individual, their family, their community, and society as a whole. This requires making calculations that at face value may seem dispassionate or heartless but are actually quite the opposite.
Let’s apply first principles thinking to a situation where a woman is considering an abortion. The woman by virtue of circumstance does not believe that having a child will be positive for her or the child. This might be because she was sexually assaulted, because she doesn’t have the resources to support the child, because of an abusive partner, or some combination of the three. In each of these scenarios she is likely to be right — and the data bears this out. Numerous studies confirm the profoundly harmful physical, financial, and emotional effects of denying a wanted abortion on both the mother and the child.  
If you look at the situation objectively, outlawing abortions leads to one of two bad outcomes:
A child is born in a situation where they’re set up to fail. They’re more likely to grow up in poverty. Their mother is more likely to either remain with a violent partner or raise the child alone. The odds are that the development of both the mother and the child will suffer heavily and that they will become a strain on their families and communities in an already overpopulated world.
A common argument against this would be that it’s inhumane to prevent birth based on ‘odds’ — that you can never know what a child’s life will be like, and there are plenty of examples of people who beat the odds to live a great life. The problem with this is that it focuses on the exceptions to the rule at the expense of the bigger picture. I would argue that it’s considerably more inhumane at both the individual and societal levels to force someone to have a child. It’s inhumane to the individuals involved to heavily stack the deck against them, and it’s inhumane to society to needlessly create more burden on a resource-constrained world.
There’s a way around outcome number 1, though:
The mother finds a way to have an illegal abortion.
It goes without saying that this outcome presents extreme health risks. The irony here is that many of the folks who are against abortion could stand to benefit by applying the same argument that they do against gun control (which I actually think has some merit): people are going to do it whether it’s legal or not, so we should focus on attacking the causes of the problem instead. For abortion, that’s sex education and access to birth control.
We have the ability to prevent both of these outcomes, and I haven’t heard a compelling argument as to why we shouldn’t.
There’s one other common argument for overturning Roe: ‘It should be a matter of states’ rights. This is about limited government. You can choose where to live.’
This is lazy thinking. I’m all for limited government, but our most fundamental and basic human rights are not left to the interpretation and whims of the state. We don’t let states decide whether we have freedom of speech or due process. No government, be it federal, state, or local, should be able to legislate what a human being can do with their body. This is a foundational principle. Regarding the ability to choose where to live, the women who most need abortions are often the ones who have the highest barriers to mobility. Again, lazy thinking.
I understand why this is an emotionally charged issue. Those who oppose abortion are, like most people, often well-intentioned. I can’t imagine a scenario where a woman on either side of this debate wants to have an abortion. But breaking the issue down into first principles makes two things clear: it is the woman’s right to choose, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to let her do so.