Magazine article Conscience

Making Lost Battles Winnable

Magazine article Conscience

Making Lost Battles Winnable

Article excerpt

THE ABORTION RIGHTS MOVEMENT IN the United States has secured a situation of partial victory and partial defeat. It has won the battles in which public opinion is on its side. It has lost the battles in which public opinion is on the other side. And it has reinforced the ideological dividing line that keeps the won battles won and the lost battles lost.

The dividing line is determined not by discomfort with abortion, which is nearly universal and often vague, but by three principles of American conservatism. These principles are:

1. Government is the central threat to freedom, not an ally in the exercise of rights.

2. Freedom belongs to private institutions such as the church and the family, not to the individual.

3. The innocent deserve rights to which the legally or morally guilty are not entitled.

The abortion rights movement has exploited these principles by making three sympathetic arguments:

1. Politicians have no place in this private decision.

2. The choice should be left to a woman, her family, her doctor and her clergyman.

3. Denying an abortion in the case of rape punishes the victim and rewards the criminal.

The three principles, reinforced by the three arguments, determine three policy conclusions:

1. The government has no business banning abortions--or taxing you to pay for them.

2. You're entitled to decide what to do if you get pregnant--or if your daughter does.

3. Medicaid should pay for abortions for rape victims, but not for other poor women.

The three policy conclusions, in turn, have driven three nationwide legislative trends:

1. Thirty-five states refuse as a general rule to pay for abortions for poor women.

Only three states pay for such abortions as a general rule without a court opinion requiring it.

2. …

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