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Volokh on Abortion
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Eugene Volokh chides Andrew Sullivan for mocking the viewpoint that draws parallels between slavery and abortion...and I think he's right.

I don't think abortion is murder (and, no, I won't get into that substantive debate, simply because I don't think there's much new that can be added to it). But I know that some decent people do think so, and it's an entirely understandable position.

Even someone who is otherwise libertarian, or even otherwise liberal, may reach this position if he just accepts one moral axiom that I don't accept -- that human life begins at conception -- but that isn't inherently inconsistent with my other moral views. Just as I don't find it ridiculous that some people would treat chimpanzees and gorillas as having a right to life (and even a right to life of the same magnitude as do humans), so I don't find it ridiculous that some people would take the same view about fetuses. (It's conceivable that a libertarian who believes that life begins at conception might nonetheless conclude that abortion should be permissible in cases of rape, but let's aside this issue for now; the great majority of pregnancies do not result from rape.)

And if I am right on this, then surely the George & Bradley position is quite understandable, and even not particularly intemperate. If abortion is murder, then Roe v. Wade is not just a legal authorization for genocide, but a constitutional protection for genocide. The slavery of millions was a heinous evil, but murder of a million children per year would be an even greater evil. And indeed the pro-abortion-rights position would require all states to tolerate such murder; the mainstream pro-slavery position would have at least allowed states to outlaw slavery, and thus to permit slavery to be reduced and even eliminated through normal majoritarian legislative processes.

Now my sense is that many people who take the pro-life position don't really think that abortion is exactly the same as murder, or else we'd be seeing a lot more anti-abortion activity, including more attacks on abortion clinics, more killings of abortion providers, and so on. Likewise, we'd be seeing more calls for punishing the woman -- perhaps with the death penalty, or perhaps with life imprisonment or close to it -- as well as the abortion provider.

But if one does think that it's murder, or even that it's killing that's roughly the moral equivalent of slavery if not precisely of genocide, then the George & Bradley perspective is right, and quite unsurprising. That isn't reason to agree with them: If one is pro-choice, then they're wrong. But it seems to me that there's nothing worthy of mockery in their view.

I'm reservedly pro-choice myself, but I agree entirely with Volokh here. The pro-life position is completely understandable, and though I disagree with extreme versions of it, the basic viewpoint should not be mocked.

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