Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pro-Life Progressivism

Apropos my obligatory Roe post, I think there are several readers who would be interested in an upcoming Symposium in the University of St. Thomas Law Journal entitled "Pro-Life Progressivism" (H/T: Thomas Berg). Professor Berg has posted his introduction to the Symposium onto SSRN, and Mark Sargent's contribution, "The Importance and Coherence of Pro-Life Progressivism" is already online.

Although I prefer to avoid terms like "pro-life" and "pro-choice", given that I a) am on the fence and b) like both values, I think that much of the positions that would fall under "pro-life progressivism" would closely mirror my own. An excellent quote found in Professor Sargent's footnotes illustrates the point of convergence:
While liberal feminists support the legality of abortion, many have moral reservations about the high incidence of abortion in the United States. Nevertheless, for these feminists, the way to reduce the incidence of abortion is not to burden or coerce involuntarily pregnant women but to press for reform policies to create alternatives for such women. This sounds remarkably similar to what some Catholic pro-lifers are currently doing regarding abortion policy in the United States – educating public opinion and sponsoring programs which offer alternatives to abortion for involuntarily pregnant women. This is not to minimize basic differences between Catholics and feminists concerning the moral status of fetal life and the primacy of women's autonomy. Rather, it is simply to point out possible areas of agreement and cooperation between these two groups at least with respect to public policies to assist women. [Mary C. Segers, "Feminism, Liberalism, and Catholicism," in CATHOLICISM AND LIBERALISM 263-64 (R. BRUCE DOUGLASS & DAVID HOLLENBACH, EDS., 1994)]

I have advocated heavily for this sort of "alternatives-first" approach to the abortion issue. In fact, where I break with most pro-lifers is that I advocate that method to almost a complete exclusion of the traditional "legal sanctions" model, where abortion is outlawed and/or criminalized. I do have moral qualms about abortion, but they are tempered by two major points: 1) That I also recognize the competing value of woman's autonomy which I think is very important here and 2) that I think abortion represents a singularly poor venue for law-based solutions. As I result, I reconcile my internal divide by trying to reduce the number abortions not by prohibiting it, but by reducing the times when abortion is either necessary, coerced, or is "the best available choice."

Anyway, I'm just a novice at this issue. Hopefully the Symposium itself will be quite thought-provoking!

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