KERN: Abortion rights clashes ignore third constituency: everyone else

Abortion rights: The two sides are clearly drawn, and neither makes progress. That's because they're missing something. Photo: Sarah Cole, AP

ANDERSON, Ind, July 8, 2013 — The classic abortion argument, raging since Roe v Wade, is typically portrayed as a battle between “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” It’s a clear dichotomy: you’re either for “a woman’s right to choose” or you’re for “life.” These arguments haven’t gone anywhere for over 40 years.

Perhaps that’s because there is a third angle, an angle which one side doesn’t care about, and the other side doesn’t want anyone to think about: the people who have no dog in the fight, but who have to pay for everything.


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The pro-life people are concerned only with the morality of the act of abortion. These include the official Catholic Church position, as well as widely-held views of many religious groups. The pro-life side embraces the emotional advocates, as well: women who, after years or even decades, still feel guilt and pain from their abortions. Some also try to make economic arguments: “Think of all the native workers we’d have, if we hadn’t aborted forty million babies,” or “We wouldn’t need all those illegal immigrants if we had enough citizen workers,” or other arguments along that line.

The goal of these people, ultimately and unequivocally, is the outlawing of abortions.

The pro-choice people range from those who have a libertarian view that a woman has a right to seek elective surgeries of any type, to those who think that we have too many people in the world already.

Both sides are avoiding another huge element in the debate: Who pays for all this, and under what circumstances?


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In the U.S., public funding for abortions is constrained by the so-called Hyde Amendment, championed in the 1970s by the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), a Chicago-area Catholic, and an abortion foe. The popular interpretation of this law is that the taxpayers are obligated to pay for abortions only in the cases of “rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is at stake.” Later interpretations have changed “life” to “health,” and then to “mental health,” or any such psychic discomfort.

Some of these broadened definitions have run into trouble, but the questions of “rape and incest” seem to be settled.

But they’re not. Pro-choice women have largely come to believe that any time they want this surgery, someone else should pay for it. Their wish thus becomes our command. To this, they have no right.

And that isn’t the intent of the law. Still, in order for abortion to be paid for by the taxpayer, rape and incest do not have to be proven. Obviously, a conviction would take longer than nine months, making the point moot. But there is a lot more to this. No one needs to actually have been raped, or have been the victim of incest (or willing participant in the act, which is illegal for both parties), both of which are illegal in all 50 states. The fact is, if the abortionist says one of these conditions exists, the abortionist gets paid by the taxpayers. It’s that simple.


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No one seems to collect statistics on how many “rape and incest” claims are made; or perhaps no one who collects this information is willing to share it. That makes sense, since the can of worms this would open, would cause ulcers all around.

Local government would hate it. Local police would have to investigate. Local prosecutors would have to prepare and pursue indictments. Local courts would have to entertain the cases; and jails and prisons would face increased population. Mayors would have to explain away their horrible rape statistics.

The federal government would hate it. Lawmakers would have to define both rape and incest, and codify these into federal law, when such crimes are rightly defined by the states. Both sides would have years of shouting matches, irate constituents, and distractions. Then there would be states’ lawsuits, as many states would certainly take issue with a federal definition that ignored a facet of their own.

Abortion providers would hate it. Instead of just running their claims through Social Security, they would have to deal with all sorts of other agencies at many levels, including law enforcement. Their claims may be rejected, and that would cost money.

The women would certainly hate it. Many probably don’t want to be involved in all the paperwork and maybe trial appearances that a proper complaint would entail. Others would not want to face the possibility of being accused by their estranged boyfriends of making false accusations.

And there are other problems. Clearly in the case of incest, a suspect wouldn’t be too hard to find, but family pressures might hinder proper investigation. In the case of boyfriends, the DNA testing would involve inconvenience and expense, and would probably run into difficulties with Fourth Amendment protections. In the cases of rape by a stranger, evidence may conflict with testimony.

Everybody that touches this will have a problem with it. So no one wants to look. But the entire system is built on deception, looking the other way, and an open door to lying.

No one is required to so much as file a police report. If there is a “rape,” then why does no one want to prosecute it? Why would a raped woman want to allow a rapist to remain at large? If there is incest, how difficult would it be, to prosecute it?

So, the moralists are too busy pushing their moral arguments, to actually do something about reducing the incidence of abortion, and the profiteers want to ignore the convoluted statute and process. Law enforcement doesn’t want to get involved, perhaps because they know the difficulty in prosecuting what the failed candidate called “legitimate rape,” and certainly don’t want to dip their toes into the web of false accusations, charges and counter-charges, he said/she saids that will inevitably surround the huge population of date rapes and busted relationships.

If the anti-abortionists were smarter or at least more practical, they would attack the funding and the web of lies that surrounds and protects it. If the pro-abortionists were smart, they might push for some federal rape laws and definitions.

But the pro-abortionists don’t have to do anything, because the pro-lifers can be counted on to never change their tactics, and the rest of the public is numbed by the never-ending controversy.


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Tim Kern

Tim Kern taught economics for fifteen years, and discovered that understanding life is easy; it’s recognizing reality that takes practice. He holds a music degree, and later earned an MBA in finance from Northwestern University. He has lived across the US, and now makes his home in Anderson, Indiana.

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