It’s taken me a while to get back to Ross Douthat’s responses (Parts I and II) to my questions for pro-lifers. (Here’s my first reply.) But if you’re still following along at home, I’ve replied to the rest of his points below.
Can there be a compromise between pro-choicers and pro-lifers on abortion? To tell you the truth, I had a bit of trouble following Douthat here. He seems to be suggesting that the US is working its way toward a more restrictive abortion regime, some mix of the national and state restrictions that are currently on the table—20-week bans, defunding Planned Parenthood, with bans at 10 or 12 weeks in some states, and probably other limits as well, at the same time as expanding social safety net programs like Obamacare. For him, that’s a compromise, nothing major, just “a slightly more European place”—though he admits that he himself, and the pro-life movement, would not accept it. I’ve got to stop him right there.
As I wrote when Douthat was comparing Texas laws that would close half the state’s clinics to the abortion laws of France, it’s only on paper that Western Europe is more restrictive than the United States. True, in most of those countries—although not the Netherlands and Great Britain—time limits are stricter; some have waiting periods, counseling, and other requirements. In more important ways, though, abortion access is easier and fairer than here: The procedure is generally covered by national health insurance (Germany is an exception, but covers it for low-income women), is widely available, and does not require the patient to run a gauntlet of clinic protesters—or the clinic employees to risk their lives. I don’t support those European restrictions, but their intention and effect are very far from superficially similar proposals in the US, which are all about shaming women, raising costs, hampering providers and preventing women from accessing abortion at all.
Anyway, these supposedly moderate restrictions are a pundit’s fantasy. For those new “European” limits to come to pass, Roe would have to go and then there would be no way to limit restrictions to the ones people told pollsters they liked. Lawmakers could do whatever they wanted—so much for compromise. North Dakota could close its one remaining clinic, Louisiana could activate the law, currently on its books, which would put anyone who intentionally killed an “unborn child” in prison for up to 15 years at hard labor, and Maryland could be the third-trimester abortion capital of the world. Americans could fight the abortion wars, regulation by regulation, election by election, state by state, and uterus by uterus, till the end of time. In practice, fortunate women living in anti-abortion states would travel to get safe abortions and the rest would suffer.