Abortion extremism is only on the anti-choice side

(Kevin D. Williamson at the 2015 National Review Institute Ideas Summit)

Conservative NYT columnist Ross Douthat makes a case for moral equivalence with a piece titled “Among the Abortion Extremists.”

As someone who has been threatened over my pro-choice views to the point that I found it necessary to call the FBI, I will concede one point to Mr. Douthat: there has been muddle on both sides of the abortion debate in the confusion of biology with legal personhood. Many pro-choicers pretend that a fetus is not a human life, while anti-choicers insist on extending legal personhood to the point of conception, many going even beyond that to insist that “every sperm is sacred” (to use a phrase mocked by Monty Python). I say “anti-choicer” rather than “pro-lifer” because the political questions are who decides and when legal personhood begins. The answers to those questions are in my view straightforward: the woman with the pregnancy decides, and personhood has always begun at birth.

Understood as a legal question and not a biological one, it is clear that the extremism is only on one side: that of the anti-choicers who demand that the government coerce women, and the subset of anti-choicers who also oppose birth control. The Catholic Church’s adamant opposition to contraception hampers efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancies, despite the fact that without such pregnancies the question of abortion would not arise.

We do not need to say there is no moral question regarding abortion, only that it is irrelevant to the legal question of who decides. It is the woman who must decide, and extremism properly attaches to those who deny this. Indeed, I think the problem is that there is *not enough* choice: men who do not want to be responsible for a baby should choose condoms, and women who do not want a baby should choose contraception. The Church’s ridiculous insistence that every sperm is sacred gets in the way of this. But the choice necessarily remains with the woman as a practical and legal matter.

We have a right to our various moral views, but that does *not* entitle us to use the government to coerce women. Thus the extremism in terms of the public policy debate is entirely on the side of people like Kevin Williamson. The anger of women over men presuming to interfere in their reproductive decisions emerges not from extremism but from simple self-respect.

I daresay this is as lucid an explication as you will see from anyone.



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