Malcolm has a writeup about a recent experience he (and to a lesser degree, I) had with a liberal Catholic on the topic of abortion. Ultimately, I don't think the conversation was a very big deal - the woman we were arguing with had severe trouble being consistent, and was an amateur at the rhetoric game in general. But the experience made me remember that I wanted to write something about a very unique bit of "pro-life" trickery that's very popular with liberals, particularly liberals of a feminist bend.
It goes a little like this: so, abortion is murder, right? Well, I don't know if I'd call it murder per se, but I can agree that it's bad thing. And we want to do all that we can to keep bad things from happening, right? That's the whole point of wanting abortion to be outlawed. Well, if the goal is to reduce the number of abortions, then clearly you should be encouraging more contraceptive use, and providing more assistance to women who are pregnant - give them more social welfare benefits, give them government funded adult education, give them state-sponsored day care, etc. You should also give up on trying to outlaw abortion, because then women will just get back alley abortions. Also, you shouldn't stigmatize any woman who gets an abortion or who gets pregnant out of wedlock, because you don't know what situation they're in, and stigma will just encourage abortion if they're already pregnant.
That's a very brief summary of a typical mindset on this point. The goal here is to figure out just where it's gone wrong. So, let's take a scalpel to this line of thinking and see what's what.
* With regards to being pro-life, I reject the idea that the end goal is - or at least, is exclusively - 'reducing the number of abortions', as if all of our actions on that front should be measured in terms of 'What will the net effect be on the number of abortions procured?' There are other goals - like 'getting people to recognize that abortion is murder', 'getting people to hold themselves accountable for their actions', 'promoting the idea that an unborn child is a person deserving of rights and respect', etc. These are multiple goals, ends in and of themselves, and they need to be accounted for when discussing this topic - and, for Catholics, there are additional considerations to keep in mind as well. Regardless, the point is that 'reducing the total number of abortions' is not and should never be considered the exclusive goal of the pro-life cause, particularly from a catholic point of view.
* Yes, sometimes a woman who has an abortion is in a truly bad situation. Say she has a problematic pregnancy that will kill her if brought to term. Say it's a 12 year old girl sexually abused by her father. But you know what? Sometimes - probably quite often - the problem is that we're dealing with a 23 year old girl who has made a stupid choice or been culpably careless. When a woman has sex with her boyfriend because she's horny and the mood is right and she's not thinking of anything else then and there, she has made a stupid move - and it deserves to be called as much. And if she deals with her stupid move by killing her child, well, she's something of a moral monster. She can be forgiven of that, as can her boyfriend if he plays a role in it, but step one is going to be admitting that something wrong was done, and acting accordingly. This is not a step that can, or should, be skipped, and one result of skipping it is promoting the cultural acceptance of abortion.
* One typical fallback here is that, insofar as being pro-life is linked to fighting against that acceptance of premarital sex (among other things), that is an impossible battle - the culture has changed, end of story. Quite possible. Then again, cultures can also change in other directions - but they won't if people simply give up immediately. I'm more than willing to accept that some fights in the pro-life cause are apparently unwinnable in the short term. That's never been a good argument for giving up that fight altogether.
* Perhaps the biggest problem - and the nastiest trick - when it comes to this question is the idea that we should promise women who get pregnant out of wedlock all manner of state assistance and benefits and training and preferential treatment in order to try and discourage them from ever having an abortion. I reject this entirely. I am willing to support charitable initiatives by churches, private organizations, and otherwise to a degree. I refuse to support logic that pretty well amounts to 'Let's try and bribe women NOT to murder their children'. If I support this, then it starts to become opaque as to how I can oppose spousal abuse. Last I checked, outlawing it didn't stop it - at most, it's been discouraged somewhat. Should I now support the elimination of spousal abuse laws in favor of simple assault charges, and focus more on providing men likely to engage in spousal abuse with various bits of government support and funding to roundabout encourage them NOT to beat their wives?
The ultimate point here is that opposition to abortion does not cash out to a simple focus on reducing abortion by any means necessary. It means promoting a proper attitude towards the unborn, a proper recognition that an unborn child IS a child after all. It means recognizing that sometimes women make mistakes - sometimes, stupid, monstrous mistakes - and holding them accountable for those mistakes.
I am tired of having these points obscured, largely owing to a modern mentality that is absolutely petrified at that idea that a woman can do something wrong with 'her own body', and that there exists a moral law she is actually subject to rather than something she can create, practically out of thin air, as the need arises.