Protecting Life and A Woman's Ability to Choose Abortion

All can agree that America has been divided on abortion. This diagram shows the contrasting positions:

The woman’s right to choose abortion and the baby’s right to live are diametrically opposed, and clearly there is no perfect “win-win” solution available. Nevertheless, there is a way to resolve the divisive conflict that has plagued U.S. politics for many decades. 

Please look again at the illustration above. This intentionally was designed as a Venn diagram, with a section in the middle where the two main ovals overlap.

To reveal this shared middle, one must first clear away the obstacles covering it — the unrealistic hopes of both sides that they can obtain a complete victory. For one group, their unrealistic hope is for no abortions ever again. At the other extreme is the unrealistic hope for a woman’s unfettered right to abortion, always. Neither of those goals ever is going to be attained in the real world. Moreover, both groups should realize that the vast majority of people in America do not want either one of those outcomes. Americans overwhelmingly support something in the middle.

Few people actually believe abortion should always be illegal, as more than 90 percent favor allowing abortion when the woman’s life is in danger and more than 85 percent favor allowing abortion when the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. Nor do most Americans believe that abortion should always be legal, given that 75 percent would disallow abortion during the final months of pregnancy.  

This consensus virtually begs for a nationwide political solution that permits some pregnant women to choose abortion in some circumstances, while banning abortion in other circumstances. The middle ground that most Americans want can be expressed in either of two ways:

Circumstances matter. The vast majority of Americans believe that abortion should be allowed, in some cases. Timing also matters. Most people believe the day after is different from the ninth month, and that, after some point in time, abortion should not be allowed in nearly any circumstance. 

A resolution by compromise is better than the situation that has existed either under the now-reversed Roe v. Wade or the troubling future after the 2022 Dobbs decision. For the pro-life side, a national resolution would ensure that there are no late-term abortions in any state, no woman would be traveling from state-to-state looking for an abortion, and the lives of viable babies would be preserved. From the pro-choice perspective, all girls and women would have access to lawful abortions in agreed, clearly-defined circumstances, and the practice of unsafe, “back alley” abortions could be eliminated. Fear of states illegalizing abortion entirely would be alleviated.

Is not the certainty of such a compromise better than the downside of prolonging the fight for unconditional surrender? Beyond the impossibility of either faction winning that fight, the inconsistency between states and the rancor in every state will be worse than at present, while some raped girls and women will be unable to find an abortion and some near-full-term pregnancies will end on a whim.

The Supreme Court majority is correct that democracy is better served if the nation’s most difficult problems are resolved by our elected representatives in the 50 states, rather than by judges using rules (i.e., the Constitution) that do not really address the problem, as is the case with abortion.