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Abortion: Abolition or regulation?

By Scott Tibbs, September 15, 2017

The end goal of the anti-abortion movement is to criminalize abortion, granting unborn babies the same protection under the law as people who have been born. But if we can reduce abortions with restrictions and regulations while we try to reach that goal, we should not hesitate to do so.

An anti-abortion organization I follow on Facebook has been posting memes like "wait 18 hours and then you can kill the baby," with emphasis on "and then you can kill the baby." I agree with the main point, that we should not lose track of the primary goal. I am certainly for abolishing abortion. However, we should not forget that the regulations have saved lives. Abortions are declining, overall, in the state of Indiana: We had 8.5% fewer abortions in 2016 than in 2015. We should not have the perfect be the enemy of the good.

It certainly feels righteous to be an abolitionist, sneering at regulatory restrictions on abortion while saying our only focus should be criminalizing it. But movements over time have bee able to make a ton of progress with incremental changes. The homosexual movement would never have gained an inch if the push was for "marriage equality" in 1950, when every state in the nation had laws on the books that criminalized sodomy. Incremental changes over time brought us to where we are today. Hard-line abolitionists are not learning from history.

But some abolitionists are not even content with arguing that incrementalist tactics are flawed. They insist that anti-abortion organizations only want to perpetuate themselves instead of actually winning the war. This is not just wrong, it is offensive. I know people who have dedicated their lives to saving unborn babies. They have greatly reduced abortions and saved hundreds of thousands of lives with their combined efforts. Some states only have one abortion clinic remaining because of this incrementalism. The leaders and employees of these organizations would love nothing more than to have to find something else to do.

Abortion has been declining since its grisly peak. Lives are being saved every day. Obviously, there is much more work to be done in fighting this evil. If we abandon incrementalism and focus only on abolition, we are letting babies die. That is simply not acceptable.