At some point conservatives are going to have to accept legalized abortion. Moral character is important to the success of our nation, and in some ways the moral character of the United States has declined. But I cannot be convinced that forcing women to have children that they don’t want improves the moral character of the United States. As unpleasant as it might be, keeping abortion legal is important to the future of our country.
Conservatives argue that making abortion illegal would improve the moral character of the country, by forcing irresponsible women (and men) to take responsibilities for their actions. But many of the women that have abortions are responsible, their situations the result of a mishap or failed birth control. Forcing these women to give birth to children they don’t want isn’t penalizing them for being irresponsible, it’s penalizing them for being unlucky and reduces their ability to choose and take responsibility for their lives.
One can certainly argue that women that have three or four abortions over the course of several years are irresponsible and callous towards life, including their own. But do we really want to force these women to have children they don’t want? I know there is the hope that a woman (and the father) will see that first sonogram and fall in love with the life inside of her and that she will become a caring, responsible parent. It does happen, but just as likely, even more likely, women and men keep on being the people they were before the child was born. If they are casual with the lives of their unborn children, with their own lives, they will most likely be casual with the lives of their born children. And as harsh as this is to say, women that have a hard time taking responsibility for their own lives, rearing children that they didn’t want, are unlikely to pass on the character and skills their children will need to succeed in life. Making abortion illegal doesn’t reduce personal irresponsibility; it just passes it on to the next generation. Again, harsh to say, but there is very little reason to assume that these unwanted children will improve the moral character of the United States.
They also create a very real financial burden. If a woman is forced to give birth to a child she doesn’t want, there is a pretty good chance the government – taxpayers – will wind up footing the bill for rearing the child. Taxpayers will likely pay the cost of feeding and housing the child to adulthood, which can easily surpass $100,000. Education through high school can cost another $100,000. And if the child turns into an adult that spends time in jail the cost to taxpayers can grow by hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s not a stretch to say that forcing a mother to give birth to a child she doesn’t want winds up costing taxpayers more than a quarter of a million dollars over the life of the child.
It’s nice to think that we as a nation are rich enough that we can afford to spend any amount of money to improve the lives of children, that we can do whatever is financially necessary to insure that all have a chance to succeed in life. But we do not have infinite resources. As harsh as this is to say, the money that government will have to spend to support unwanted children comes at the expense of support for children who were wanted by their parents, who do have a loving mother and hopefully father focused on helping them grow into happy, successful adults.
I believe life begins at conception, and I believe that an abortion takes an innocent life. It doesn’t matter – it doesn’t matter. As harsh and unpleasant as the decision might be, we need to allow women who don’t want to have a baby to end that baby’s life. Yes, this means that some women will have an abortion and feel a terrible sense of regret and guilt the rest of their lives. And some irresponsible women will use abortion as a form of birth control. But we have no choice. Financially, we as a country cannot afford the cost of these unwanted children. And as importantly, forcing women to have children they do not want undermines the moral character of our country, and as such undermines our future.