Bad Abortion Arguments: “Laws Don’t Work”

When pro-aborts aren’t in the mood to defend abortion with indignant sloganeering or bizarre moral theorizing, they’ll instead try to put a more detached, practical face on their position by arguing that, regardless how anyone feels about it, banning abortion simply wouldn’t work anyway. Today, Scott Lemieux at the Lawyers, Gun$ and Money blog claims, “even on its own terms criminalizing abortion does very little to protect fetal life, but is very successful in maiming and killing women.”

His source is a New York Times report on the futility of Morocco’s abortion laws, which only permit “the early termination of pregnancy, with spousal consent, to save the life of the woman or to preserve her physical or mental health”:

A 2008 study, the most recent available, put the number of abortions in Morocco as high as 600 a day.

Last week a leading gynecologist, Chafik Chraibi, put the figure even higher. Dr. Chraibi, a professor of gynecology at Mohammed V University in Rabat, who is an ardent campaigner for legalizing abortion, said the real figure “is probably closer to 900 a day, when you take into account the nonmedical abortions carried out at home.”

“In Morocco, according to the World Health Organization, 13 percent of maternity deaths are from abortions,” he said.

Women coming to him after botched terminations — often carried out in makeshift operating rooms in filthy basements — were frequently “mutilated,” with many suffering from hemorrhaging uteri or perforated abdomens, Dr. Chraibi said.

Let’s tackle the second claim first. While every maternal death by illegal abortion is tragic, the responsibility for such deaths falls squarely on the individuals who make the choice to perform and undergo such dangerous procedures, not those who forbid them. And we shouldn’t be so quick to concede the causal link Lemieux and Chraibi suggest, either—not only does the NYT story neglect to explore what the abortion rates would be without the law, or elaborate on any number of variables about Moroccan society or law enforcement that might account for the law’s ineffectiveness, but we know from our own history that the pre-Roe v. Wade back-alley abortion epidemic didn’t happen:

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