The Search for Compromise in a Post-Roe v. Wade America

May 14, 2022 Updated: May 14, 2022

Commentary

If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, “we the people” are going to have to address the abortion issue democratically. Each of the 50 state legislatures will enact its own abortion laws. Some will restrict abortion more than is currently the case; others, less. In some states, compromises will be hammered out; in others, a dominant party will impose laws with little to no accommodations to their opponents.

Many Americans will be bitterly disappointed with their state’s laws pertaining to abortion. I’m reminded of an old anecdote: In a first-year law school class, a passionate student insisted vehemently that the decision rendered in a case that the class had read was clearly unjust. With great dignity, the law professor replied, “If it’s justice you want, go across the street and enroll in the divinity school. This is the law school.”

Also timely is the cliché/truism: Politics is the art of the possible. Compromise, rather than absolute principles, will prevail in many states; consequently, many Americans on both sides of the abortion issue will be dissatisfied, if not disgusted, with post-Roe adjustments of abortion laws. This brings to mind another time-worn adage: German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s observation that seeing how laws and sausages are made is not for the squeamish.

We are all well aware of the irreconcilable positions staked out by the two sides on the abortion issue. The pro-life/anti-abortion side accepts as an incontrovertible fact that each individual human life is sacred; that unborn humans share with those already born the inalienable right to life—a life that no other human can willfully destroy. The pro-abortion side rejects the premise that the unborn are invested in the right to life.

In many (maybe all, I don’t know) American jurisdictions, it has long been a settled point in law that a fetus is a life, for that is why a person is charged with two counts of homicide when killing a pregnant woman. Abortion has been an anomaly—a legal carve-out allowing a mother, but no one else, to choose to terminate her pregnancy. The abortion battle has always been about legally codifying what conditions (if any) must be met in order for an abortion to be legal.

If Roe is overturned, abortion will still be a widespread practice. But in the perhaps vain or naïve hope for a mitigation of the enmity between the two sides, I will plead for concessions by both sides. My plea to the pro-abortion side: Please end all government funding of abortion in exchange for having abortion remaining legal (to whatever extent) in your state.

As strongly as you feel a woman has a right to have an unwanted mass of tissues, or however you characterize what pro-lifers call “a baby,” pro-lifers view the abortion procedure as the brutal destruction of an innocent, helpless human life. Please don’t compel them to pay for a procedure that they find so inhumane and immoral. Don’t do violence to their religious beliefs and conscience. Tens of millions of Americans believe in abortions. If all of the non-poor of those would give a couple of dollars a month to private funds for abortions (including, when needed, funds to travel to a state where abortion is more legal) that would be sufficient to pay for abortions for those needing financial aid.

Now, turning to the pro-abortion side’s concerns, its basic belief is a woman’s right to choose whether to have a child or not. As a general principle, the vast majority of Americans agree that no girl or woman should be forced to keep a child she doesn’t want. Pro-lifers would prefer that females exercise that right either pre-emptively—i.e., by abstinence or contraception—or post-pregnancy via adoption. What’s most objectionable is abortion for the sake of convenience.

Many pro-lifers are willing to make exceptions for rape, incest, threats to the mother’s life, etc. I joined this camp decades ago. Back then, a very dear senior friend, one of the most Christian women I have ever known, told me that her own mother would administer abortions to herself after having been impregnated by her husband (my friend’s stepfather) during drunken stupors. Yes, she used the old, dangerous shirt-hanger method. She simply did not want to have a child who was conceived in such a vile, unloving way. Who am I to sit in judgment on such a grim choice? Would God punish her in the hereafter for doing what she did? Maybe (I doubt it) but most importantly, that’s not my call. I decided that, as a Christian, it’s my responsibility to first get the beam out of my own eye, and to respect human sexuality and reproduction enough to treat them respectfully and keep them within marriage.

As an olive branch to pro-abortion Americans, I hope that states that restrict abortion would shun punitive tactics against those who traveled to a state with less restrictive abortion laws to have the procedure done there. Further, let us avoid slipping into a surveillance state. Few things would be more like Big Brother and less like America than to have law enforcement spy on what goes on in physicians’ offices and operating rooms. (Remember: laws, sausages, compromise, imperfect justice …)

Postscript: I hope and pray that moderates on both sides of the abortion issue can find some way to restore a modicum of comity between Americans who disagree on this emotional issue. May we at least agree to denounce terrorist threats made by people on either side? I’m thinking of whoever tossed a Molotov cocktail into a Wisconsin pro-life organization’s office and painted the message, “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.” I suspect that whoever did that is an extremist who wants to foment societal conflict and chaos to promote some destructive revolutionary goal. To the tens of millions of Americans who believe that a baby is a life, the ugly graffiti translates to, “Let us kill babies or we will kill you.” I hope that pro-choice Americans will denounce and disavow such tactics.

I also hope that Attorney General Merrick Garland will redeploy FBI agents from monitoring parents who speak out at school board meetings to monitor extremists (whether pro- or anti-abortion) who resort to terrorist tactics. No matter how violently we disagree, let us not resort to violence as we go through the messy democratic process of figuring out how to legislate the abortion issue.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Mark Hendrickson
contributor
Mark Hendrickson is an economist who retired from the faculty of Grove City College in Pennsylvania, where he remains fellow for economic and social policy at the Institute for Faith and Freedom. He is the author of several books on topics as varied as American economic history, anonymous characters in the Bible, the wealth inequality issue, and climate change, among others.