Bruce Burleson -- July 8, 2017

In 1973, the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision nullified laws prohibiting abortion in the United States.  Since then, based on statistics reported on Abortion73.com, some 58 million abortions have been performed.  The site also reports that 18.9% of pregnancies in 2014 ended in abortion.  So clearly abortion has been quite a widespread practice since Roe vs. Wade.  To put it into perspective, numerous U.S. states and smaller countries have populations well below 58 million.


The debate around abortion will probably never end.  On one side, feminists and liberals argue that it is a women’s right to control her body including its reproductive systems.  Some on the far left continue to argue for “free abortion on demand,” and for total federal funding of abortions across the board.


On the other side are those who believe that human life begins at conception, a premise that leads to the conclusion that abortion is in fact murder.  Abortion providers—and often women who choose to have abortions—are often described as murders.


The abortion debate has also at times featured middle-of-the-roaders, who argue that the practice is acceptable under certain circumstances—e.g., when a woman has been raped, or has been a victim of incest, or when the mother’s life is in jeopardy due to her pregnancy.  But in today’s political climate, characterized by a polarization between the far left and the far right, those arguments haven’t received as much attention.


All of that having been said, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in recent months about this issue.  My politics are generally conservative (at least fiscally and on some issues socially), and in some cases leaning libertarian on certain issues.  For example, I have written on Liberty Clarion Call about how I believe drugs should be legalized, for a variety of reasons, one of which has to do with not allowing the government to tell people what they can or cannot put into their bodies.


I personally find abortion abhorrent.  To me it is incontrovertible that human life begins at conception.  There is not a single human being on this planet whose life did not begin in this manner.


But there are other issues at stake, and this is where I go libertarian on the issue.  First of all, babies born to welfare recipients are raised at taxpayers’ expense.  The Department of Agriculture estimates that it costs $233,610 to raise a child these days.  The Department of Health and Human Services reported in 2011 that 38 percent of children 5 or under are receiving welfare.  So, although the exact cost to taxpayers of women having children while on welfare is unclear, it likely reaches into the hundreds of billions of dollars.


One wonders how many billions of tax dollars could be saved if more of these women had abortions.  Not paid for by government, but by mothers who couldn’t be bothered to wear a condom or use birth control.  Of course, not getting pregnant in the first place is the best approach if you can’t afford to raise children yourself, but the reality is that unless we engage in mass sterilization of welfare recipients (something that isn’t going to happen), there will always be welfare recipients getting pregnant.


Secondly from a libertarian perspective, one could argue that prohibition of abortion is in fact significant overreach on the part of the federal government, in a similar sense that telling people what kinds of drugs they can ingest is also overreach. This is where libertarians and leftist-feminists could find agreement.


I am a minimalist when it comes to the power of federal, state and local governments.  Prohibiting abortion means that Big Brother, and not families or individual women, is in charge of what women do with their bodies.


How difficult it is to reconcile these views: not wanting government overreach into our homes and families, not wanting to squander hundreds of billions of dollars raising children on the taxpayer’s dime, and wanting to respect life as it begins with conception.


I am pro-life.  But I am also against excessive government control.  As I certainly don’t have all the answers on this complicated issue, I look forward to further debate on the topic.