I recently remarked on how people are talking about the other privacy rights that seem to depend upon Roe being at stake in this debate, but how they don't seem to be doing anything about them that would be pragmatic if this really were their concern. In short, I said that these concerns, when posed in conversations about Roe, seem to me to be a red herring. Well, I have a similar observation to make about another line of argumentation that is maybe less a red herring than a straw man, but is in any case another distraction from the real issue.
You see, another thing that gets talked about a lot in debates about abortion is the need to fight the root causes of abortion rather than the thing itself.
Now, I've already pointed out elsewhere how I think this is fallacious and why: how the logic there falls apart when you realize that birth is kind of an irrelevant and arbitrary benchmark for such a debate. If those arguments advance anywhere, they advance too far. They set a bar of justice that, if we were consistent and really followed the logic to its terminus, ought to apply in cases outside the womb as well as inside. (This arbitrary line drawing, incidentally, is one of the elements that ultimately should, for reasonable arbiters, doom both Roe and Casey as very bad and illogical pieces of jurisprudence. Because if the grounds for the supposed right are really granted as true, while on the other hand the denial of a legitimate overriding countervailing interest is made so strongly, then turning around an imposing standards like viability or an undue burden test is too obviously arbitrary and capricious. The Court tried to have it all its own way, have its cake and eat it too, but it doesn't work. It's like if a museum docent, after giving a 20 minute talk on why such and such manuscript is so unique and precious and important, were to fold the thing into a paper airplane and throw it across the room to show how nicely the material it is made of can fly. The conclusion undermines the premises.)
But I've digressed. I was saying, I'm hearing a lot about how we need to focus more on the underlying and root causes of abortion, and more specifically how a lot of these causes lie at the feet of one political party as its fault and responsibility. But then I'm seeing something else alongside this. I'm seeing people talking about how, if this decision comes down, they will need to move to another State. Whole companies are suggesting they may do so.
But what's odd about all that, to me, is the where and wherefore of it all. People, and companies, aren't planning on moving to another State because the newly chosen State has better maternal healthcare, or better schools, or more robust social programs for single parents. They're planning to move because, well, abortion. And there's something else besides. The States to which they seem to be planning to move are States that presumably are going to be keeping abortion allowances in place, and yet they're the very same States that supposedly ought to be where abortion is least necessary. They are many of the States that even now, under the current disposition of the law, have the highest abortion rates—rates, mind you, not raw numbers, but ratios. States like New York, California, Maryland, for example. True, some of the States on the list of highest abortion rates are those that have had Republican control for a while, like Florida. But a higher percentage of the States with the top ten highest abortion rates in the country are those that have been controlled by Democrats.
Now, I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. But I'm making this observation because I find it curious. See, we should expect, given the arguments put forth about who has the better solutions for fixing the underlying causes of abortion, that Florida would be on that list. But we shouldn't expect, if the hypothesis had predictive power, those other States to be there, i.e. California, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware—or, well, we may as well mention the District of Columbia, which is atop the list. It is, as I say, curious. The logic of the arguments I've seen runs thus: since I care about abortion, and want to see it reduced, I should stop all this lollygagging with trying to ban abortion and supporting policies that limit it, and instead fight for those politicians who want a more permissive abortion regime but support the sorts of policies that make abortion less necessary and common in spite of this. The logic has never fully made sense to me, even in the abstract. But it is even less compelling in the concrete, when I look at the actual track record and numbers of those States that simultaneously uphold the most permissive abortion regimes alongside the most robust social safety nets and services. I am not surprised to see that they have higher abortion rates in actual fact; I am not surprised that I am not surprised. What does surprise me is that those who advance this argument are not surprised, and that they continue to harry me with that argument.
Finally, though, anticipating some pushback, I want to make something perfectly clear, which should be clear enough already but nonetheless bears emphasizing. None of what I have said here can in fairness be construed, and therefore should not be construed, as an argument one way or another about the merits of social safety nets or social welfare programs. My observations here do not approach that issue. Indeed, I'll allow for the sake of argument that if those States on that list had fewer such programs, then their rates of abortions would be even higher. It's at least plausible. The observed evidence doesn't speak to that, one way or the other.
That would, I dare say, be an interesting discussion; but it would be a separate discussion. What I’m interested in discussing at present, though, is this: that, if I take them at their word, a lot of people seem to be anticipating needing to move to a different State not because of all the benefits that State has for making the bearing of a child more feasible, but because that State will maintain as feasible the recourse of terminating the bearing of a child; and that they therefore anticipate potential making use of that recourse, regardless of how many programs that State has that, some people insist, are the key to making that recourse unnecessary.