Thursday, April 17, 2008

On two subjects

On the importance of a 'rape' exception in abortion bans: I've seen many pro-life pundits dismiss the common three abortion exceptions (rape, incest, mother's life in danger) as distractions and rare. Problem is, for any legislation as personal and invasive as an abortion ban (which is the goal of pro-lifers), these exceptional circumstances require exceptional remedies. Failing to find said remedies would create new problems and quickly undermine the laws.

Take rape. The pro-life position is, 'abortion is murder and outweighs the woman's right to choose'. In the case of rape, an absolutist pro-life position would be that abortion is still murder and the fetus wasn't guilty of a crime. Here's an example of that position (towards the bottom). It's one thing to argue that an abortion in the case of rape is wrong; it's quite another to legally require the victims of rape to bear the children of their attackers. The difference between 'ought' and 'must' is huge, and pro-life absolutists fail to understand the importance. If abortion is outlawed in the case of rape, the rapist is given indefinite control of the victim.

Along those lines, there's an even more fundamental reason to allow abortion in the case of rape: having it banned gives rapists an incentive to commit the crime. Rape is often about power rather than lust, and few things are more powerful than procreation. Forcing the victim to bear and likely care for the child, passing on genes without needing a willing partner, and... well I'm sure there are other perverse incentives rapists could conjure up for themselves. The point is that to the extent that willing procreation is vital to humanity itself, even sacred, it ought not be perverted by forcing women to have the babies of rapists.

You might ask yourself, "is banning abortion in the case of rape even an issue?", and to that extent I say, yes. Polls show that 10-15% of the population is pro-life absolutist, and several percent more favor banning abortions where the mother's life isn't at stake. This represents anywhere from 30-50+% of the overall pro-life movement. What's more, absolutists represent the majority of funding and energy in the pro-life movement. If Roe v Wade is overturned pro-life legislation will be passed in many states, and take effect in states where laws are written to begin if Roe is overturned. An example of the latter is Louisiana, and that law does not allow for abortions in the case of rape.

To complicate things further, even if an abortion ban allows such abortions, it's crucial that a good system be in place for deciding such situations. For instance, would the standard of proof be a legal conviction, or would it be lower than that? Would litigation be expedited, or would lawyers be able to drag things out until delivery? Go too far in the direction of the victim and you risk branding innocent men rapists. Go too far in the direction of the accused and you risk a de facto ban, harming the victims.

I'm a firm believer in 'defeating' political opponents with reason; converting them to your side. Pro-lifers who either haven't considered or refuse to consider the very real consequences of an abortion ban make it much harder to convince pro-choicers to switch, especially women. To a large extent absolutists do the pro-life cause a disservice, because pro-choicers fear that the end of Roe v Wade would lead to abortion policy being set by the kind of people who give no regard to the potential horror visited on rape victims. Serious abortion opponents *must* give more thought to a post-Roe world if they want to become a clear majority in the nation.

On the presidential election: The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that there hasn't been a president in modern times whose policies I broadly agreed with. Not even Reagan. Coolidge probably comes closest of those in the last century, but even he was tied to things like racist immigration quotas and appointing a Supreme Court Justice who did immense damage to the Originalist cause.

Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson aren't perfect, but they at least campaigned as unabashed right-wingers. John McCain's flip-flopping and unpredictable populist outbursts, coupled with a guaranteed Democratic congress and his desire to be seen as 'bipartisan', means he won't be the kind of leader I'm hoping for. If you're familiar with my positions you know I dread a win by either Democrat. Thus, whoever wins it means at least 4 more years of disappointment.

What I'd like to know is, are any of you out there actually enthusiastic for the policies set out by one of the three remaining candidates? I wonder what it's like to have a candidate you agree with in a position to lead the most powerful nation in the world. Must be nice. Like being a Patriots fan.