Opinion | New Twists in the Abortion Debate

To the Editor:

Re “What Has the Pro-Life Movement Actually Won?,” by Ross Douthat (column, April 4):

The pro-life movement has failed to recognize a crucial fact: Abortion has always existed, even where laws ban it. No public censure, legislation or punishment, not even protection of the fetus under the 14th Amendment, would prevent all abortions.

But we do know how to reduce the number of abortions. Comprehensive and accurate sex education and easy access to contraception, including for teenagers, have been proved to reduce abortions. Many abortion opponents resist those programs.

According to Mr. Douthat, abortion opponents have begun to realize that their stance requires them to back policies that support pregnant women and the children they bear. This is a welcome change.

Even if those new policies were adopted, abortion is much too controversial and complex to be settled with a ban that would not actually eliminate the procedure. Instead, let’s devote more resources to preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Mary Makofske
Warwick, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Apparently Ross Douthat’s version of the 14th Amendment protection of liberty does not apply to women exercising control of their own bodies. Instead, theocrats like Mr. Douthat and his friends would use the police power of the state to criminalize women’s choices.

Improving the condition of women and children is praiseworthy, but should not provide an excuse to deprive women of basic freedoms or force the religious views of one group onto those who do not share them.

John Shepherd
Charlottesville, Va.

To the Editor:

Re Ross Douthat’s column and “The Authoritarian Plan for an Abortion Ban,” by Michelle Goldberg (column, April 6):

Not content with misinterpreting the Second Amendment by ignoring the word “militia,” conservatives are now prepared to misinterpret the 14th Amendment by ignoring the word “born.”

I can’t wait to see what misinterpretations they come up with for each of the other amendments.

Alan Stevens
New York

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat’s hopeful musings about a world without abortion fail to take the needs and goals of actual women into account. Even with lavish financial support — and who believes that will happen? — some women will not want the physical and emotional responsibility of motherhood.

What will happen to children born to women who do not want them and do not want motherhood? Some will be abused and neglected, some abandoned to relatives, and a few murdered. Some will merely grow up emotionally stunted by living with a distant and resentful mother.

The focus must be on better, more reliable and more easily obtained contraception. And abortion must remain legal for times when contraception fails.

Merilyn K. Lee
Columbus, Ohio

To the Editor:

I thought that the critical sentence in Ross Douthat’s column was “There is something to be said for a pro-life movement that talks less in the language of partisanship and proceduralism and sounds more like the utopian and not simply conservative cause that its logic ultimately requires it to be.”

But he doesn’t mention the links to the “consistent ethic of life,” the “seamless garment” and the nonviolent organizations that strive to keep alive the utopian moral insight that killing is never the answer, as violence leads only to more violence.

James R. Kelly
The writer is professor emeritus of sociology at Fordham University.

To the Editor:

An absolute abortion ban, and policing to enforce it, would indeed foment a backlash that would ultimately undo pro-life efforts.

If the movement instead adopted a “safe, legal and rare” position strengthened by strong social supports, something many on both sides can agree on, much of the goal could be achieved.

Without at least some compromise, the issue will continue to divide us.

Avrom Jacobs
Jamaica Plain, Mass.

To the Editor:

I appreciate the compassion Ross Douthat expresses and likewise his unmasking the duplicity of Republican state legislators invoking a policy “without having to compromise their libertarian principles to make it real.” But his description of a “weakened religious right” with “few media megaphones” belies a core impatience with dissent and the founding principle of the separation of church and state.

Over the last 40 years, the Republican Party has succeeded in packing the judiciary not so much with “conservatives” as with Christian plutocrats, and the struggle that Mr. Douthat articulates highlights one area where our country may witness the true gift that has been packed for us.

Prepare for the right of wealth maximization to supersede not just the right to life but the right to seek a living. Increasingly, women will lose agency over their bodies, and the value of the labor of most people will be reduced to little more than bare sustenance.

Charles Olson
New York

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