With the inauguration of President Trump, the subsequent Women’s March, and the annual March for Life, abortion has been a hot topic on social media lately. One of the staple arguments in favor of legal abortion is that making it illegal will not stop it. It doesn’t matter if abortion really kills babies. We would still have tons of illegal abortions, so we might as well ensure that they are done “safely.” This reasoning is unevenly applied to the abortion question as compared to other issues – no one would ever use it in other circumstances that involve violations of the rights of others. But leaving that aside, the argument doesn’t hold up under scrutiny for another reason. It assumes that if abortion became illegal, practically the only effect would be that the procedure would become less safe. This is illogical and false.
If abortion were illegal, the culture surrounding it would change drastically, thus leading to fewer abortions and fewer total deaths.
If abortion were illegal:
- More people would believe it to be immoral. An often overlooked feature of the law is that it functions as a moral teacher in society. When something is legal, people assume that it must be okay to do. However, when something is illegal there is much more of a stigma surrounding it. That stigma shapes the citizens of a society as their moral consciousness develops. It wouldn’t change the minds of the staunchly pro-choice overnight (or perhaps ever). But, it would slowly change the minds of generations to come. More people who believe abortion to be immoral likely means fewer people who will have them, perform them, or promote them.
- It would be more difficult to obtain. Currently, abortion clinics are ubiquitous throughout the country, and many insurance companies cover abortion. Of course that would not be the case if abortion were illegal. Thus, it would take a lot more effort and resources to obtain one. Abortion advocates wouldn’t argue with this point. However, they likely would deny that this means that far fewer women would have them. But this is illogical. There are many women who are on the fence about having an abortion. Many more do not want one at all, but their spouses/boyfriends, parents, friends, employers, or doctors pressure them into it. If abortion were not so easily obtained, those women would be much less likely to go through with it. Even many women who would have little reservation about a legal abortion at the corner Planned Parenthood would think twice before going to an unregulated surreptitious clinic (or, especially, resorting to self-induced abortion).
- The societal expectation that women in certain situations will end their pregnancies would diminish. It’s common for pro-choice people to say “no one is pro-abortion.” But the reality is that there are many who are pro-abortion when it comes to other people’s babies (if not their own). When we as a society see a young/unmarried/poor woman with a swollen belly or a couple of kids, we judge her. We no longer judge her for having sex when young and unmarried (as in days past). Instead, we judge her for having babies. Who does she think she is, bringing another poor child into this world? The same is true for mothers who have babies with disabilities. I know people who received pressure from doctors and their own loved ones to abort babies with adverse prenatal diagnoses. Then, harsh judgment followed when they chose to carry those babies to term. The societal pressure to abort poor and disabled babies is very great. Many women cave to that pressure when they desperately want to keep their babies.
- More effort would go toward ending crises instead of ending pregnancies. As much as pro-choice people claim to care about women in crisis pregnancies, it seems they direct their resources toward making sure those women can kill their children instead of toward helping them find a way to lessen the crisis. Pro-life pregnancy resource centers are the ones providing women in crisis pregnancies with counseling, support, diapers, baby clothes, formula, etc. Pro-life ob/gyns (such as this one) are the ones providing them with low cost obstetrical care. Meanwhile, the government spends its time and resources over-regulating such places to make it difficult for them to help women. What if we had no choice but to unite together to save both mom and baby? What if the friends and family who would have pressured their loved ones into abortions had no choice but to rally around to support them, instead?
- Risk-taking behavior that leads to abortion would lesson. It’s clear that the legalization of abortion led to an increase in promiscuity. Legal abortion promises sex without consequences. It’s that little extra insurance policy when your birth control fails (or you don’t use any). If that “safety net” were not there, then logically fewer people would take the risk of living promiscuously.
- Medical professionals would still be performing the majority of abortions. Ironically, this is the one thing that’s likely to not change. In the years leading up to Roe v. Wade, physicians performed the majority of abortions.* They were not taking place mostly in “back-alleys” or with coat hangers, as abortion advocates would have us believe. Thus, women were not dying in droves from illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade. They wouldn’t be dying in droves in a post Roe v. Wade world, either.
- Most importantly, the government would no longer be putting its stamp of approval on the killing of innocent humans, on the violation of the basic rights of the least among us. And this is really the only change that matters. It goes against the very purpose of government to allow the intentional and systematic killing of innocent people – and worse, to frame it in benevolent verbiage like “healthcare” and “right to privacy.” A woman who chooses to endanger herself by obtaining an illegal abortion is responsible for that choice, unlike an innocent baby who has no say in whether s/he lives or dies. Justice demands that the government try to protect the innocent baby, even if that makes abortion more dangerous.
People often compare illegal abortion to prohibition. Everyone knows that prohibition was a failed experiment in controlling social behavior. People drank anyway. So, people will abort anyway. However, this comparison fails. Abortion is not at all like drinking alcohol. If we are to believe the many pro-choice people who claim abortion is a difficult choice for a woman, and that no one is “pro-abortion,” then it’s obvious how different it is from deciding whether to take a drink of alcohol. Prohibition didn’t work because there isn’t an innate knowledge of the supposed evils of alcohol written on each person’s heart. Alcohol is not evil. Drinking alcohol does not violate anyone’s rights in itself. It doesn’t go against the very nature of the person taking the drink. Prohibition was absurd on the face of it, inspiring contempt for the law rather than influencing people’s behaviors and consciences.
However, if abortion were illegal, it would pave the way for people to start listening to their consciences again, rather than to government and social propaganda that dehumanizes the unborn.
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Mary is a lifelong Catholic, a wife to an incredible man, and a homeschooling mother of two girls and two boys. She loves studying theology and apologetics and is very passionate about our beautiful Faith.