Frum’s solution to the abortion debate: social engineering
David Frum’s October 29, 2012 article caught my attention. Frum has previously favored the idea that abortion should be legal in the first trimester and illegal thereafter unless it is necessary for the mother’s health.
This position, of course, seems more reasonable than some of the downright loony positions Republican politicians have taken recently (“rape” versus “forcible rape”?). However at the end of the day, Frum seems willing to accept some limits on a woman’s right to an abortion. In my view, this is one issue where any restriction is a violation of a woman’s right to her life.
But there’s another interesting issue that Frum’s article raises. He suggests that we ought think about how to reduce the number of abortions by creating the kind of social conditions that increases the likelihood a woman will keep the child. As he puts it: “Abortion is a product of poverty and maternal distress.” Reduce poverty and maternal distress, and the number of abortions will go down even if they are legal and accessible, according to Frum.
Notice the social agenda that Frum is advancing: it is desirable to reduce the number of abortions, it is desirable to provide economic security to women who might get pregnant and it is desirable to create conditions under which they might keep their babies.
Frum isn’t explicit on how this agenda is to be advanced. It may mean introducing legislation in varying forms to create the necessary conditions. Employers might have to pay benefits, perhaps welfare payments would increase, maybe there would be laws requiring certain pay levels for women.
Whatever the government-sponsored mechanism, Frum’s solution is still one in which society is trying to engineer a certain outcome with respect to abortion. This misses the point as badly as those who want to ban abortion outright.
Frum’s kind of thinking brings to mind the “safe, legal and rare” advocates for abortion. Yes, abortion should be safe and it certainly should be legal. Whether or not it is “rare” is nobody’s business but the individual woman’s, who must make and be responsible for what is often a difficult decision about her life and body.