Dems should have supported a grand compromise involving reasonable restrictions on late term abortions
The Democrats would have done much in recent elections had they supported a grand compromise: reasonable restrictions on late term abortions, in exchange, say, for reasonable restrictions on gun rights or guaranteed health care for children.
Conservatives like to use purported examples of late term abortions to illustrate the immorality of abortion. And Democrats seem unwilling to compromise on the issue. But late term abortions are extremely rare.
Data for other countries are similar.
Only four doctors openly perform late-term abortions in the U.S.
Because late term abortions are so rare, abortion rights supporters should be willing to accept restrictions on such abortions, provided there are exceptions for the health of the mother and for rape and incest.
Indeed, in 2013 the House of Representatives passed a bill to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest, and where the health of the woman is endangered. The Senate refused to consider the legislation and President Obama said he’d veto it.
One can quibble on whether 20 weeks was the correct cutoff — 24 weeks might be more reasonable — but it sure seems that compromising on this issue would be a reasonable choice, given all the other issues and seats that are at stake in elections, and given the fact that there are so few late term abortions.
I’ve spoken to conservatives who say they’d gladly vote for Democrats but for this one issue: abortion.
In Why Abortion isn’t Murder I argued at length that until the embryo has a highly developed nervous system, there’s “nobody home” and so abortion is not the destruction of a person. When I showed this article to some abortion rights activists, they were skeptical. They were uncomfortable with an argument based on consciousness because, they rightly saw, it logically leads to a position in which there are restrictions on late term abortions. Abortion rights activists prefer an argument based on privacy rights: a woman should have absolute control over her own body.
According to a 2012 Gallup poll, only 14% of respondents think that third-trimester abortions should be legal.
Reasonable restrictions on abortions are similar to reasonable restrictions on guns: people who are not fervent partisans are left scratching their heads, wondering why such restrictions can’t be enacted.
What are the risks for Democrats of compromising on this issue? First, the haggling over the cutoff date — 24 weeks? 20 weeks? 16 weeks? — could be ugly. Second, it’s unclear how many votes it would win in elections; is it worth it? Third, conservatives may use the compromise as an excuse for demanding tighter restrictions on abortions.
Perhaps some of my feminist friends will be upset with me because of this stance. Besides, they may say, I am not a woman, so I have no right to state my opinion.
But face the facts. Trump won. Republicans control the House, the Senate, and a majority of legislatures and governerships. Soon they will control the Supreme Court. Politics requires compromise. For tens of millions of Americans, abortion is a moral outrage. Late term abortions are rare. Reasonable restrictions on late term abortions are a worthwhile compromise, if that’s what it takes to avoid GOP control of all levels of government.
Too late now.