A sensible compromise on abortion is within reach

According to the Guttmacher Institute, forty-four states prohibit abortion after some point in pregnancy. California, New York, and Washington prohibit abortion after fetal viability.  Massachusetts prohibits abortion after twenty-four weeks.

As the Guttmacher Institute says (ibid), “The current U.S. Supreme Court standard holds that states may prohibit abortion after fetal viability as long as there are exceptions for the life and health (both physical and mental) of the pregnant person.”

Nobody in their right mind would support aborting a healthy, third-trimester fetus unless there was some threat to the mother’s health or some other extenuating circumstance.

Indeed, third trimester abortions are rare, about 1% of abortions according to the University of Washington.

So, abortion right supporters have little to lose by agreeing to abortion restrictions.

The main issue at stake is: when should the cutoff be?  At fetal viability? (That will change as medical technology progresses.)  At twenty-four weeks?  Twenty weeks? Sixteen weeks? Twelve weeks? Eight weeks? Six weeks?

A handful of states have attempted to ban all abortions: to set the cutoff at conception.  That position is extreme, since early in pregnancy the embryo or fetus has an undeveloped nervous system and hence lacks consciousness.

At the opposite extreme are those abortion rights activists who claim that a woman has an absolute right to control her body.  That position is extreme because a late term fetus has a highly developed nervous system.

Granted, debate over the cutoff and about exceptions for, say, mental health of the mother, will be contentious, but it’s not a fundamental question about whether women have an absolute right to choose or about whether all abortion is murder.

A compromise about abortion rights is within reach: acknowledge that late term abortions without extenuating circumstances are immoral, but protect a woman’s right to choose abortion early in pregnancy.

Imagine all the political races the Democrats could have won if they had compromised on abortion years ago.

For related essays see A difficult discourse about Dems and abortion, Why Abortion isn’t Murder, and Dems should support a grand compromise involving reasonable restrictions on late-term abortions.




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