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Freedom, Equality, and Abortion

The principal argument underpinning the Pro-Choice position is that abortion is not about babies or death or anything else so unpleasant but about freedom.  Indeed, the label “Pro-Choice” is a nod to the criticality of this argument.  Women should be FREE to choose what is best for them.  Moreover, women CANNOT be truly free unless and until they have full autonomy over their bodies.

The corollary to this argument is that men who oppose abortion are opposed to women having freedom or to women being fully equal.  Men want control over women.  They always have, and they always will.  And preventing a woman from having full autonomy over her own body and her own “health” decisions is one means by which backward, regressive men attempt to maintain that control.  Will Wilkinson, the vice president for research at the Niskanen Center, recently tweeted the following, which expresses this view perfectly:

The claim that abortion is murder implies that the conditions for women’s social, political & economic equality come at an intolerable moral cost. It’s no accident this view got traction with conservative Protestants as institutionalized gender hierarchy started to break down.

Women can only have true social, political, and economic freedom and equality if they have the right to abortion on demand.  Men who deny them this are reactionaries, desperate to maintain their power and position.  This, more or less, is the Pro-Choice mantra.

But is it true?

Freedom House ranks the United States 58th in the world for “freedom” – well behind many countries that restrict abortion stringently.  Nevertheless, the United States earns the label “Free,” whereas most of the other countries that allow abortion-on-demand after 20 weeks – China, Vietnam, North Korea – are much further down the list, labeled “Not Free.” North Korea finishes tied for second-to-last place, yet has abortion policies not too different from the United States.  Abortion, therefore, does not necessarily equal freedom.

As for equality between the sexes, the World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap” report is also interesting.  In 2017, the United States ranked 49th in the world for “gender equity.”  Nations finishing lower included a majority of the other nations that allow abortion on demand without restrictions:  China, Vietnam, North Korea, and Singapore.

Who scored better than the U.S.?  Iceland came in first; Norway second; Sweden fourth; Slovenia seventh; Ireland eighth; France eleventh; Germany twelfth; Denmark fourteenth; and Great Britain fifteenth.

The World Bank, more or less, concurs.  As London’s Guardian newspaper noted in March:

If you’re a woman and want to be on an equal footing with men, it’s best to live and work in Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg or Sweden. The World Bank [1], which has tracked legal changes for the past decade, found these were the only countries in the world to enshrine gender equality in laws affecting work.

The liberals who insist that Americans are barbarians, while their European cousins are enlightened have a point.  In terms of gender equity, Europe is the world’s leader.

Unfortunately for the Pro-Choicers, there’s a catch.  All six of the countries World Bank names “best for women” ban abortions after 12 weeks.  Ireland, which finished eighth in the World Economic Forum’s list, also bans abortion after 12 weeks.  Germany, which placed twelfth, has a mandatory waiting/reflection period.  And Great Britain, WEF’s number 15 nation, bans abortion altogether unless “permission” is granted by two physicians.

The truth of the matter is that there is ZERO correlation between freedom and gender equity on the one hand and the availability of abortion on the other.  The entire argument is a fabrication.

Given all of this, one might wonder how the abortion debate in this country has become so closely aligned with the twin notions of “freedom” “equality” and specifically why abortion-on-demand has become the principal measure of these notions for many on the Left.

If we’re being generous, we’ll say that a small part of this is the Pro-Choice side’s appeal to Americanism (for lack of a better term).  America is about freedom.  Abortion is about freedom.  America is great.  Therefore, abortion is great.

A bigger part of it is class division and snobbery.  Pro-Lifers are backward, you see.  They’re not in favor of “progress.” They’re not in favor of women’s freedom or equality with men.  They’re religious, or “poor, uneducated, and easily led,” as the Washington Post might put it.  Proper people – progressives – favor equality and liberty for women and are fed up with the patriarchy and its demand that women remain barefoot and pregnant.  Support for abortion is proof of one’s membership in the club, evidence of one’s moral and intellectual superiority.

The biggest part of it, however, is a relic of the means by which abortion became legal in this country.  Roe v. Wade didn’t just overturn state bans on abortion.  It didn’t just usurp the judiciary’s power to enact legislation. It created a FUNDAMENTAL CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to abortion.  When the Supreme Court declared that abortion is protected under the 9th and the 14th amendments, it created, out of whole cloth, a new and fundamental human right, on par with those in the Bill of Rights.  Freedom of speech.  Freedom of religion.  Freedom of the press.  Freedom to bear arms.  Freedom to have an abortion.

THIS is, by far, the most important reason to oppose “legislating from the bench.”  Judicial activism distorts our politics and exacerbates political divisions.  Freedom and equality are not correlated with abortion rights.  Yet Pro-Choice Americans insist that they are, largely because they have been misled by judges trying to justify their activism.

This is a uniquely American tragedy.