Wednesday, July 16, 2008


This evening I've been pondering my position on abortion, impelled by a quote from Germaine Greer: "The compelled mother loves her child as the caged bird sings. The song does not justify the cage nor the love the enforcement." In particular, my attention is drawn to the compulsion. I've long held that not everything which is egregious or even despicable ought to be illegal--some bans are unenforceable. My position on abortion has been shaped largely by the assumption that we can and do prevent murder, particularly the killing of innocents. But tonight I've been pondering the logistics of banning infanticide. I've read about primitive historical societies in which a woman who became pregnant again before she had finished weaning the child would simply kill the second child at birth, in order to conserve resources for the first (and increase its chances of survival). It strikes me that from a certain perspective, outlawing abortion is like trying to outlaw that. The reason we don't have more infanticide is probably not because it's illegal; I do not think many American women would kill their newborns even under severe resource constraints, even if it were completely legal. I also don't think, if there were 1.37 million infanticides every year, that you could enforce any kind of law against it. It simply isn't feasible to take in those kids and raise them. Ultimately, a society has the ethics it can afford, and we don't have the excess capacity for to handle 1.37 million kids a year with no families, even if it were appropriate for the state to step in as a parent.
Thus, I have to think seriously about the possibility that outlawing infanticide may be infeasible under circumstances not much different from the present ones. And if infanticide, then abortion. Some crimes we cannot prevent.
P.S. That wouldn't make me any happier with the way it got legalized, but judicial activism is a lesser, more flexible concern than protecting the innocent. More procedural, less visceral, less primary. In any case, I haven't come to any conclusions, I'm still just pondering and collecting data.
"The presentation or 'gift' of the Holy Ghost simply confers upon a man the right to receive at any time, when he is worthy of it and desires it, the power and light of truth of the Holy Ghost, although he may often be left to his own spirit and judgment." --Joseph F. Smith (manual, p. 69)
Be pretty if you are,
Be witty if you can,
But be cheerful if it kills you.

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