Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Making Abortion Legal, Safe, and Rare

Written by johnleemk on 5:50:12 am Mar 31, 2007.

Not too long ago, I proposed that we Legalise Abortion to Prevent It. Mich wrote in response:

"If we truly love these women, if we truly love these children, we will do the right thing by them and legalise abortion."

What children? The aborted one?

"We will act to make abortion legal, safe, and rare, because we will ensure that measures are there to support the mothers who need the aid to keep them from aborting their child in the first place. It's the right and moral thing to do."

Abortion legal and safe, yes, but rare? How are we going to control the numbers if it is working in the free-market style? Issueing less license?

And can you elaborate on the connection on how abortion service itself (like any other hospital service) is linked to "measures to keep people from aborting their child"?

In answer to her first question, yes, I was referring to the thousands of unborn babies who die everyday thanks to abortion. The same babies who would suffer almost just as much if abortion were legalised, because their mothers would either resort to quack doctors or because they would be born into a life of poverty.

The question about reducing abortion in a free market system is a very good one. As I said, the key to reducing abortion is to go to the root of the problem.

Let's go one step down the chain from the abortion operation itself to the decision of the mother to abort. If she had counseling, she could be persuaded not to abort but perhaps to carry the child to term, and maybe put it up for adoption.

Could this happen in a country which banned abortion? Of course not — the mother would not mention to anyone that she planned to abort, counseling services for mothers planning to abort would not exist, and the mother's "doctor" would almost certainly not mention any alternatives to abortion. (Since quacks rarely have the best interests of their patients in mind.)

Going further up the chain, what compels the mother to take her child's life in the first place? A common stereotype is that these women are irresponsible sluts who sleep around and refuse to accept the burden of responsibility for their actions. But these women would probably still get an abortion in a country which banned it, since they also tend to be the type who can afford to visit a country which does legalise abortions.

Anyhow, most women who do abort are those who cannot afford to look after a child, or are simply just not ready for motherhood. The solution here is welfare and education. It is incumbent upon the state to help the poor (I have explained my economic thinking behind this before), and this includes poor mothers.

Are these proposals consistent with a laissez-faire free market philosophy? Of course not. But the market is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end — the end of an efficient society. And I think a society where mothers are forced to kill children because they can't afford to care for them is hardly an efficient society.

If we legalise abortion, mothers would be able to get professional medical care. This would keep them out of the hands of quacks only interested in making a quick buck, an also give them access to professional counselling. Moreover, by not making abortion a taboo subject, mothers would not have to keep their decision a secret — and thus giving their friends and family an opportunity to discuss the consequences of her decision with her, rather than keeping them in the dark until the deed was done.

I think it's a question of moral judgment, really, in the end. Do you want to make a moral stand by banning abortion, but indirectly encouraging more deaths? Or do you want to legalise abortion, and thereby open the door to reducing the number of mothers and children who die on the operating table?

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