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Banning Some Forms of Abortion is Allowing Other Forms

Sometimes people object to saying that a particular pro-life law is giving approval to abortion. For example, someone might object to me saying that a partial-birth abortion ban is implicitly giving approval to all other forms of abortion.

Now, to be charitable, it may be that not all lawmakers have thought it through and may not realize that they are doing this. Likewise, someone who objects to our interpretation of the particular bill or law may simply not understand the thinking. I hope to help fix that.

Let’s say there is a legislator named James. James hates abortion. He wants to do something about it. He knows he can make a bill, which, if it passes will become law. He also knows that for all practical purposes, abortion is legal.

James has heard about other pro-life legislation and decides to put forward a bill saying that abortionists need to have admitting privileges to the local hospital. He has good intentions and is trying to help.

The problem is that James knows abortion will remain legal unless someone acts to change that. If he were to create a bill that bans abortion and passes, it would be law. But that isn’t what he did. James saw that abortion would remain legal except for what he was able to outlaw and chose to go about outlawing only part of it. Ergo, he is implicitly saying that the abortion he isn’t outlawing is fine.

Some will still object to this and say it isn’t that simple. After all, not all bills pass. Some have to compromise in order to get something passed. But what is the nature of this compromise? It is that James is making a concession by placing restrictions on abortions rather than banning, and the pro-abortion legislators are making a concession by allowing it to pass.

Consider an analogy.

Once there was a business owner named Carl. Carl hated jello. Carl hated the existence of jello. Unfortunately for Carl, his employees loved jello. They would fill the company refrigerator up with it. Carl wanted to ban it outright from the fridge, but was afraid to upset the employees too much. So, Carl settled on putting up a sign that read “No lime jello allowed in the fridge.” After all, he hated lime jello the most.

One day there was a new employee named Nick. Nick started asking a long-time employee, Blake, some questions. He had heard that Carl hated jello and that it might not be allowed. As Nick and Blake walked to the kitchen, Nick asked about bringing jello. Blake told him it was allowed.

“Are you sure?” asked Nick.

Blake pointed to the sign Carl had put up and said, “See? Carl allows jello – just not lime jello.”

Nick, comforted by the fact that the sign singled out lime was confident that Carl allowed raspberry jello, even if he didn’t like it.

Legislation that only outlaws a particular form of abortion, or abortion under certain conditions is implicitly allowing the other cases of abortion because abortion is the status quo. But, on top of that, many bills explicitly state that that is what they are doing. So, when we say that a particular bill is giving approval of the forms of abortion they don’t outlaw, we aren’t just being mean or mischaracterizing the work of others to push an abolitionist narrative. That is actually what they are doing.