Professor Balkin’s Abortion Compromise
Jack Balkin suggests that a “durable compromise over abortion” would look something like this:
if you wanted to imagine how the U.S. would come to a durable compromise over abortion, it would probably look something like this new approach: Pro-life advocates continue to believe that abortion is immoral but agree that the criminal law is not the best way to solve the problem of protecting unborn life. Pro-choice advocates in turn agree to new social services and support for poor women that make it easier for them to choose to have children. (This is something that many pro-choice advocates will agree to because many of them also support expanded social welfare programs.) The result is a coalition of social justice pro-life advocates with traditional pro-choice liberals.
The problem with such a view, however, is that it presupposes, wrongly, that pro-life advocates have adopted the muddle-headed definitions that the pro-choice advocates have put forth, such as “future potential person,” “point of viability,” etc. Instead, pro-life advocates see no non-arbitrary line other than the moment of conception at which to assign personhood, and thus abortion is, quite simply, the unjustified killing of a human person, i.e., murder. To merely suggest that pro-lifers may continue to believe that the act is immoral, while removing the possibility of criminal sanction for an act that they quite rightly believe to be murder, is merely to toss them an irreverent biscuit.