Anti-abortion absolutists have a common cause with totalitarians

I wrote this on Sept. 27:

The Russian Orthodox patriarch has called for all abortions to be banned, and his Muslim colleague, the mufti, has joined the appeal, but with a provision for termination on medical grounds.

A day or two later, the Moscow Patriarch’s office claimed that its boss had never called for a blanket ban on abortion but, rather, suggested some restrictions. I have already forgotten what they were exactly, but it was probably about making women pay. Abortions in Russia are covered by mandatory medical insurance, which means they are supposed to be free at state clinics, in theory at least.

American anti-abortionists, or “pro-lifers,” tend to be small-government conservatives – without noticing the contradictions inherent in holding both positions at once. The problem is that, no matter where, enforcing a universal ban on abortion will require a greater degree of governmental interference into the private lives of the citizenry. It would make every woman of childbearing age automatically suspect whenever she visits a hospital or calls a doctor or merely stays away from home for a couple of days. The enforcement apparatus would inevitably eat at the increasingly meager protections against arbitrary government action still available to commoners.

Think of the war on drugs and how it gives cops a gazillion pseudo-legal pretexts to burst into your house or search (and impound) your car. An abortion ban would further erode whatever is still left of what Americans call Fourth Amendment rights, that is, the constitutional protections against arbitrary search and seizure.

Justice Blackmun’s reasoning in Roe v. Wade was sympathetic to libertarian thinking: he privileged the privacy of a doctor-patient relationship over the government’s right to interfere in private contractual dealings in the name of protecting of what might well be a figment of religious imagination.

Any judicial ruling expanding privacy protections for citizens at the expense of the government’s greasy fingers should be by rights considered a win for liberty and its champions. A sensible conservative – one concerned about the reach and strength of the government’s tentacles rather than about imposing the precepts of her personal religion on unbelievers – should treasure privacy, that precious “right to be left alone,” especially against the State’s depredations.


  1. Us Brits have got the abortion issue right, I think: a necessary evil, we’d rather it didn’t happen but it always will, let’s not go on about it.

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