Quick Response #11: Banning Abortion Won’t Stop Abortions

Emily Albrecht responds to the pro-choice claim that banning abortion won’t stop abortions from happening. What would happen if we banned abortion, and how should that potential outcome affect our laws?

Watch all the videos in ERI’s Quick Response series here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsN8Ay8poS-It-dWSmblq1ZufOH-MVj1L

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As a pro-life person, you might be told that you shouldn’t be in favor of banning abortions, because banning abortions won’t actually stop abortions, something else will—usually a combination of comprehensive sex education and single-payer healthcare. Even without addressing what other things may or may not stop abortions, we should be clear: banning abortions WILL stop abortions, even if it doesn’t eliminate them.

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Think about it this way: pro-choice people oppose even the smallest regulations on abortion facilities because they pose an “undue burden” on abortion. That means, they worry that ANY restrictions could cause a woman to be unable to get an abortion. In other words, any law AT ALL would stop at least SOME abortions, if pro-choice strategists are to be believed. How much more would a large-scale ban stop abortions, if restrictions on hallway size and admitting privileges cause some facilities to shut down?

And it’s only logical that banning abortion would stop most abortions. The abortion rate doubled when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion across the country. The effects of legalization are really clear: more women wanted legal abortions than illegal abortions. It seems ridiculous to act like banning abortion nationwide wouldn’t result in the inverse. It is likely that only a fraction of women would still choose to get abortions, for a variety of reasons, if abortion was banned.

There’s another aspect of this, which explains in part why it matters to ban abortion even though banning it doesn’t solve all of the problems that give rise to a desire for legalized abortion. Whether we like it or not, we learn how to think about moral things based on what is in the law. The law is a moral teacher. If something is illegal, many people are more likely to think it’s wrong (even if they do it anyway), and if something is legal, many people don’t think it matters morally to do that thing. Banning abortion means that the law teaches that it’s wrong to kill other humans while they are yet unborn, and that would certainly have some effect on people who are moderate or undecided about abortion.

One thing we can agree on with pro-choice people is that banning abortion WON’T stop ALL abortions. I don’t think there’s anything prohibited by law which hasn’t been done by many people. Murder, for example, still happens pretty frequently despite being banned just about everywhere. But it would be really weird to argue that we should legalize murder and instead focus on solving the social problems that give rise to a desire for people to murder because banning murder hasn’t stopped all murders! We should certainly try to solve those social problems, but murder should still be illegal too.

We don’t have a crystal ball, but we can learn from history and psychology and make good, informed predictions about what is likely. Based on everything we know, banning abortion is likely to stop the majority of abortions. It would have a compounding effect over time, as more and more people unlearn that it’s okay to kill unborn humans and learn instead that all humans have, and deserve, legal protection.

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