Before the 2016 election, I did not think too much about politics. Unconsciously and half-heartedly buying into the political culture that surrounded me in my Liberal surroundings (northern New Jersey, Rutgers University, and New York City), I thought that Democrats were decent, Conservatives were religious nuts, and Washington DC was corrupt and couldn’t get anything done. Starting in 2016, I started realizing how awful the Liberal side of our culture was. It was progression at all costs with no care as to where we were progressing (this is the tandem cooperation of Wokeness and Progressivism). Upon realizing this, I became politically homeless; I no longer belonged to the political ideology that dominated the part of the culture I had grown up in. It sucked, but I was welcomed, along with many dissidents, with open arms by Conservatives.
Conservatives were standing up for liberty, heterodoxy, and personal responsibility. In contrast to where Liberals were headed, Conservatives were saints among sinners. Early on, I started listening to some Conservative pundits, and what they were saying was often a breath of fresh air, but occasionally, they would say something that reminded me that this partnership was ultimately flawed (I still listen to Tucker’s monologues from time to time, but that tends to be an examination of what conservatives are thinking). I knew to never get too comfortable, and I expect that it may be time for me to leave.
Roe v. Wade Overturned
On June 24, 2022, the SCOTUS overturned the Roe v. Wade decision which removes the requirement for states to allow abortion up to the third trimester. I am supportive of the decision, and my support has very little to do with my stance on abortion, which I will explain shortly. Roe v. Wade was a federal mandate, and it should not have existed. The 50 states are supposed to be 50 different experiments running concurrently, they should not look the same and, more importantly, they should not be forced to look the same save a handful of ways (see Bill of Rights).
Since it is mainly liberals who supported Roe v. Wade, I will to defend this opinion with them in mind, and I will do so with an example tailored for them:
It looks like the tide is shifting politically. It is likely that the Democrats will be beaten badly in the 2022 midterm elections, and they may lose the presidency to Donald Trump in 2024. If the Republicans have control of the House, the Senate, the Executive, and have a majority on the Supreme Court, there is no telling what they may try to inflict upon the American people. Let us imagine for a moment that President Trump decides to ban gay marriage. Wouldn’t you rather live in a country where it was nearly impossible for him to do that? This country was set up to maximize liberty, it was not set up to have our federal government dictating how every single American citizen should act. The easiest government for you to influence is your local government. Your state government will be significantly harder to influence. The federal government is almost impossible to influence (for you, since you are not a lobbyist backed by millions of dollars). Which of these three would you rather have a greater ability to govern your life. The local government, obviously.
So, in this example of Trump banning gay marriage from a federal level, what might gay people do? Well, if they want to not be persecuted and want to be afforded the same rights as all other citizens, they can either deal with the persecution and fight against the federal government (which we explained is the hardest government to influence), or they can move out of the country. Let us say we lived in a country were decisions like this could only occur at a state level and let us say that New Jersey banned gay marriage. Gay people in New Jersey who wish to be married now have a different, much better set of options: deal with the persecution and fight against the state government (which we explained is easier to influence than the federal government) or move to New York which is very much like New Jersey (and very close by) where gay marriage is still legal.
It can be very tempting to imagine a country in which all the behaviors that we believe good people should exhibit are dictated from the highest government in the land and all of those who want to act in conflict with these behaviors would be legislated into compliance. This wish lays the seeds of oppression and persecution, and it is an instinct that must be resisted. Live and let live (P.S.).
I am against abortion. I believe that a fetus is a life, and I believe that abortion is murder. Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying have explained that we have only two unambiguous lines to determine the start of life: conception and birth. Neither of these lines make sense in determining when life begins. It is somewhere in the middle of conception and birth and at that point, I believe abortion is equivalent to murder. I find myself uncertain of when that point is, so I am open to suggestions, but I err closer to conception than I do birth, and, according to Gallup polling, that is true of most of us.
Abortion is one of our most heated debates and I think I can plainly summarize how both sides ignore an important point from the opposing argument that prevents progress on the issue. Let’s start with what Conservatives miss to stay on theme with hating on them a bit in this essay.
Pro-life advocates ignore the reality of the worlds in which women live. When men have sex, there is a 0% chance that they get pregnant. This is not true for most women and because of this, there is a natural incongruent level of responsibility that women must take on, and this responsibility is present regardless of how we chose to govern ourselves. Furthermore, in our current society, there are many subcultures in which the cost of a woman acting promiscuous is low relative to the cost of a woman practicing abstinence outside of committed relationships. Because of this, women are strongly encouraged (to a point where we can almost use the word “forced”) to compete with promiscuous women by matching their behavior. Sex outside of committed relationships results in conception outside of committed relationships which results in unwanted pregnancies. The conservative obsession with personal responsibility results in an undervaluing of the forces exerted upon women by society and nature.
Pro-choice advocates, on the other hand, ignore the ethical question about when life begins to an almost disturbing extent. I say ignore, because I have encountered very few pro-choice individuals whose opinion on “when life begins” stands up to even light scrutiny if they are willing to entertain the question at all.
- “A baby is reliant on the mother to survive” – human offspring have the longest period of dependence of any mammal. Humans have abnormally large brains which means that we must be born prematurely (compared to other mammals) so that we do not break our mothers in two with our giant heads (any more than we already do). If a baby’s reliance on the mother dictates when abortions are appropriate, then we can abort children up to 5 years old. If a child is developmentally challenged, we can abort them at any time of their life. Does that sound reasonable?
- “It is just a clump of cells” – We are all clumps of cells.
- “A fetus at 8 weeks is the size of a kidney bean” – Which philosophical principle dictates that you are not alive if you are below a certain size.
- “The fetus is inside the mother” – Not only did the fetus have no choice in this matter, but why does the location of the baby dictate if it is a life or not? This is a gruesome example but let us say that two mothers get shot in the stomach. The first mother was shielding her child with her body and the bullet passes through her and kills her child. The second mother was pregnant, and the bullet kills the child she is carrying. Let us assume that both mothers survive. Was murder not committed in both situations?
- “Do you remember being a fetus?” – Memory alone cannot determine whether life exists. If that was true, would Alzheimer’s patients or people in comas that they might wake from not be entitled to personhood? I also do not remember being born or anything in the next 3-4 years of my life. Could I have been aborted then as well?
I suspect the question about when life begins is avoided because we all know that the answer is earlier than we want it to be. How soon do women usually realize they are pregnant? The first clue is usually a missed period which means that we would be roughly 2 weeks out from conception or 3 to be sure that the period is missed and not delayed (This clue can still be missed due to irregularity of menstrual cycles). How much has happened in 3 weeks? Well, an embryo has developed, with the beginning of facial features. By the end of the fourth week, there will likely be a heartbeat. So, at the earliest moment a woman might realize she is pregnant, the embryo is quite small, but is already looking very life like. Now let us consider that abortion, even for those who support the right to choose, is a difficult decision and a woman will feel a lot of complicated emotions about this small embryo/fetus. It is not a decision that she will make lightly, and thus will not make the decision the moment she finds out she is pregnant. By the end of the 8th week, we now refer to it as a fetus rather than an embryo and the central nervous system has developed along with bones.
The hard truth is that life probably begins before it is reasonable for a woman to detect her pregnancy and decide to get an abortion. Admitting this might seem fatal to the morality of the pro-choice argument, but I think more is lost by being unable to admit this.
Another aspect that is ignored by most pro-choice advocates, is the reason women chose to terminate a pregnancy. Florida collects data on this, and it is quite illuminating. Of the 70,229 abortions performed in Florida in 2018, 53,001 (or 75.46%) were elective abortions. If you listen to pro-choice arguments, it sounds as if most abortions are chosen for dire economic reasons, endangerment of the mother, severe birth defects, or due to rape.
- The data does not grade economic reasons and they are grouped in with social reasons, but these abortions made up 19.97% of Florida’s 2018 abortions
- Endangerment of the mother accounted for 1.74% of abortions with only 194 (or 0.28%) endangering the life of the mother
- Severe birth defects accounted for 1%
- Rape/Incest accounted for 0.16%
The trends here are quite strong and can be expected to persist in states other than Florida, even if there is noise or misreporting. The idea that an abortion is chosen mostly when a woman’s back is to the wall is just not represented by the data.
Enforcement of Abortion Laws
I am hopeful that the overturning of Roe v. Wade will break loose the calcified debate over abortion rights. I hope that states will be able to decide better what is right for their citizens than the federal government could decide for the whole country. I hope that the states that create the best laws have the best success, and the states with the worst laws are mature enough to change course and follow the example of those with the best laws.
The danger arises from the way that conservatives will prove themselves awful once again: a nationwide ban on abortion. I have heard plenty of conservatives proudly admit to wanting such a ban. When this is pursued, any conservative that supports it while also having supported Roe v. Wade’s overturning because it “returned power to the states” should be exposed as a hypocrite. A nationwide ban on abortion is as constitutionally fraught as the Roe v. Wade nationwide mandate of abortion rights (the kind of sentence that might make everybody mad).
It is coming, but I believe rape and our legal system structure can be its demise, as well as the demise of individual states’ bans. Most people believe that women should have the right to abort in the case of a baby conceived out of rape. The baby was forced on the mother and therefore she can elect whether to carry it to term. This claim lines up with the extensive abortion polling done by Gallup:
Consider how our legal system is set up to minimize the error (P.P.P.P.P.S) that causes an innocent person to be convicted of a crime.
|Defendant is Truly Guilty||Correct Action||Guilty person goes free|
|Defendant is Truly Innocent||Innocent person convicted||Correct Action|
The purpose of the principle “innocent, until proven guilty” is to codify our preference of one error over the other. Now consider what might be the preferable error in the case of abortion.
|Abortion Allowed||Forced to Carry to Term|
|Conception from Rape||Correct Action||Raped mother forced to bear and raise child that was forced upon her|
|Conception from Consensual Sex||Mother is allowed to terminate a fetus that she conceived as a consequence of willing sexual intercourse||“Correct Action”|
I think that most people would be more willing to risk a few mothers having elective abortions than to force one woman to carry to term a child that was conceived through rape (P.P.P.S).
Therefore, these error minimizations conflict. If abortion is only allowed in the case of a rape conviction or some other type of proof, the error minimization of our justice system will maximize the number of women forced to bear and raise the child of their rapist. We can only remove the conflict in these error minimizations by allowing women to get abortions (with restrictions on timing) regardless of the manner of conception and trusting them to make the right decision.
As shown in this essay, most of us want abortion rights to exist with some restrictions. However, the “restriction” that most of us want (the exception for victims of rape) cannot be enforced without our governments exerting tyranny and violating the liberties of women (and men) to properly parse which women were raped.
Efforts used to institute full abortion bans would be better spent on the widely shared goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies. We need a culture that discourages men from abandoning women whom they impregnate unintentionally. A culture like this might encourage men to choose their sexual partners more carefully, and act as if sex has consequences, which it does. We need a culture that does not punish women who choose to have sex exclusively within committed relationships. We need to make contraception as available as possible. We need to decrease the costs of raising children to minimize the economic pressures on expecting parents. These pursuits (if done properly) have almost no downsides. When is the last time you heard someone say, “Our society would be much better if more fathers left pregnant mothers, and it is far too inexpensive to raise children”? Never. You have never heard anyone say that. Let’s try to lower our guns and spend our energy accomplishing the good things that everyone wants.
P.S. In addition to the “live and let live” aspect of state-by-state governance, there should also be trust in one’s ability to convince others through remarkable results. We can continue our gay marriage outlawing example, and let’s tweak it to have 49 states outlaw gay marriage and one state, let’s say Kansas, legalizes it. What might happen in this scenario? Well, it is likely that gay people will move to Kansas in droves. Will the presence of gay people who are at liberty to live as they please hurt or help Kansas? If I ask a bigoted person, they might say it will hurt Kansas, but if I ask a sensible person, they will predict that Kansas is about to experience an economic boom. Male same-sex partners tend to have higher than average combined incomes, and same-sex couples tend to have less children than heterosexual couples will have which means less parental leave and more time spent working. Companies will move into Kansas and beautiful neighborhoods will pop up. I don’t think it is too stereotypical to say that the theater scene in Kansas will be obscenely good. People who are not gay will want to move to Kansas to join into the wonderful culture that is being established there. States who have banned gay marriage will, after a time, be unable to deny their mistake and will one by one begin to legalize gay marriage. (P.P.S)
P.P.S. The “gay economic boom” example I have laid out is over-simplified and ignores some critical details.
- Not everyone is financially capable of moving and it is not right that someone should be forced out of their home because their state government started favoring persecution.
- Moving from states and trusting the states to convince themselves of their wrongdoing would take a lot of time and may never occur. People can easily convince themselves that something is not happening, despite overwhelming evidence.
- Not all of the “experiments” that states conduct will send out as strong a signal as I described of an economic boom in Kansas caused by an influx of gay people.
- All 50 states may choose to persecute, and those being persecuted would have nowhere to run.
I don’t have much of a retort to these bullets, but I am aware of their existence. I am convinced, however, that more localized governance would result in greater liberty and prosperity, especially in the long term. Feel free to remind me how long it took to get gay marriage legalized.
P.P.P.S. If anyone disagrees with my preference of error in terms of abortion, perhaps I can justify it a bit here. Consent is an imperative to liberty, and liberty is quite possibly the most important concept in American society. Conception does not afford liberty to everyone involved. The parents consent to sex, but the fetus does not consent to existence. When a child is conceived through rape, two of the three people involved did not consent. If only one of three people consent to something and it happens anyway, that is tyrannical, and it is antithetical to liberty. In order to provide the fetus life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we have to suspend the liberty of the mother. That is a net zero; no liberty has been gained.
This is a cold, philosophical argument, but I have never heard it made. There are plenty of other valid arguments:
- If there is a hereditary component to rape, it will be passed on
- The mother will be reminded of her trauma every time she looks at her child
- The child, if told, will have to live knowing: they were conceived out of rape, their mother was raped, and their father is a rapist
P.P.P.P.S. I had a conversation with some friends where I explained my favor towards the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and let’s just say it did not thrill them. They told me that as a result of the overturning, women were going to die. People seem to always think I am apathetic to the suffering of individuals, but I am often just looking past short-term results. A few years ago, I spoke to someone who was quite angry that I supported turning away a caravan of Honduran migrants. They believed that I was either ignorant or apathetic to the suffering of the migrants, but neither was true. I was instead thinking about how much harm would be inflicted on future caravans that would only exist upon finding out the success of this caravan. I was thinking about how letting in a few migrants does nothing to help Honduras and without addressing the problem, solutions could quickly get out of hand.
Regarding my favor of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I was thinking instead of thinking how this may be the quickest way to get the most people to believe that abortion should be allowed or to turn the tide against idealogues who propose illegalizing abortion in all circumstances. People die because of abortion bans, sure. Fetuses die and women are convinced to terminate babies that they love for ugly reasons because of abortion rights. The presence of harm alone cannot be considered a compelling argument to do or to not do something especially when talking about the governing of a society of millions.
P.P.P.P.P.S. If anyone is unfamiliar with the concept of error minimization, it has to do with tradeoffs. Consider this graph representing the production decisions available to an economy.
Let us say that in this economy, every employable person is working and thus, the economy is operating on its efficient frontier (represented by the curved line). If this economy wants to make more consumer goods, they must decrease their production of capital goods. They have the capacity to make as many as 50 million capital goods or 40 million consumer goods, but they cannot maximize both at the same time. We can refer to this as a tradeoff, and tradeoffs are present in almost all decisions about governance.
We can think about it from a lawmaking perspective. Lawmakers can create laws that are vague enough to ensure that they will not be circumvented, or specific enough that they will not infringe upon benign behavior. In many towns in America, for some reason, kids would egg houses the night before Halloween. Municipalities could make laws that tried to address this: they could ban eggs entirely or maybe they could restrict egg sales to below 18-year-olds 2 weeks leading up to the night before Halloween. The first law makes it almost impossible for teenagers to egg houses, but also stops regular people from consuming an important food item in the American diet. The second law allows adults to purchase eggs uninterrupted, but makes it simpler for teenagers to buy eggs (ask someone older than 18 to buy them for you or buy them 2 weeks and 1 day before). The negative results of both versions of the laws are the errors, and the municipality needs to decide which error they want to minimize to decide which version of the law they want to move forward with.
P.P.P.P.P.S. People often argue that the only people who are against abortion are religious. I don’t think that is accurate, but also, is that necessarily a bad thing? A lot of our most important values are based on religious values. “All men are created equal” is based on the idea that all life has value which is based on the concept that God loves us all equally. That belief was radical for its time, and it carried humanity forward from the idea that some people deserved better than others. I would consider this an important advancement in morality that we owe (at least in part) to religion.
- The Unmentionables
- Short Takes: Martha’s Vineyard, Pronouns, Gender Identity
- The Crumbling Case for Abortion Bans
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