The compromise on abortion that the Republican mavericks should offer

I don't like blogging about politics. My previous blog entry was the only one I've written on politics, and that was about international geopolitics.

But Sarah Palin inspires me.

The culture wars in the U.S. have two major flash points: abortion and gay civil unions/gay marriage.

Abortion is the untractable one. But I believe there is a way, a novel way.

Begin by accepting that, given the structure of the American republic and the Supreme Court's precedents on abortion, there is no chance that abortion can be made illegal any time soon. Even if Roe vs. Wade, and Casey, and the Court's other abortion precedents were overturned the issue would merely become a local issue (though it would also stay a national issue), and most States would likely keep the existing regime more or less as is. It will take decades for the pro-life camp to get its way, if it ever did.

That leaves former President Bill Clinton's formulation of "safe, legal and rare" as the only real option for the pro-life camp. The pro-choice camp's goal, on the other hand, is pretty safe.

Of course, Bill Clinton never did much, if anything, to make abortion rare. And whatever one might do needs to be sold to the pro-life camp with more than "it's all you can hope for."

The solution, then, is to think about the problem from an economics (and demographic) point of view.

Consider: making abortion illegal will not mean zero abortions, for back-alley abortions will return, with the consequent injuries and loss of baby and maternal life. So we can only really hope to minimize abortion. Looked at it this way Bill Clinton's formula looks really good. This is the argument with which to sell an economics-based solution.

And the solution? Simple: provide financial incentives...

  • ...to families to adopt children (though there is already a shortage of children to adopt),
  • to women with unwanted pregnancies to proceed with the pregnancy and put their babies up for adoption,
  • and to abortion clinics to participate in the process of matching women with unwanted pregnancies to families who wish to adopt (effectively becoming market makers -- it sounds awful, to market children, but isn't the alternative worse?).

It sounds like a government program that no fiscal conservative should want taxpayers to pay for. But consider that in the long-term it pays for itself by increasing the future tax base (more babies now -> more adults in the labor pool later). And consider the opportunity cost of not having these children! For Japan- and Russia-style population implosion would have disastrous consequences for the American economy (consider Social Security...). Avoiding population implosion alone should be reason enough to go for such a program. How much to offer as incentives? I don't know, but even if such a program came to cost $50,000 per-baby that would still be cheap, considering the demographics angle.

So, allow choice, but seek to influence it, with naked bribes, yes, but not coercion (which wouldn't be "choice").

This brings us to gay civil unions and/or gay marriage. It's certainly past the time when any politician of consequence could seriously propose the criminalization of homosexuality in the U.S.; sexual autonomy, at least in the serial monogamy sense, has been a de facto reality for a long time, and now it is de jure. Now, if gay civil unions or marriage could mean more adoptive parents of otherwise-to-be-aborted children, then what can someone who is pro-life do but support at least gay civil unions? If life is the imperative, then surely we can encourage gay couples to help, and let God judge whether homosexuals are in sin or not.

Alright, now that that's out of the way I hope to go back to my non-politics blogging ways.

Comments:

UPDATE: In case anyone couldn't tell, I wrote this blog entry with an eye to keeping my own views shrouded (though surely you can tell that I like Governor Sarah Palin). My goal is to foster an end to the culture wars, or at least a solid detente.

Also, I didn't go into details of how the incentive program would work. Clearly one must not allow the program to lead women to think "get pregnant, deliver the baby and give it up == get lots of money." One way to do that would be to give a per-adopted baby incentive to the clinics, but have a fixed financial incentive pool for the mothers, with the actual amount paid to mothers (up to a legal maximum) negotiated between the clinic and the mother. This would give clinics an incentive to clinics to maximize adoptions, not to maximize births, and once everyone understands this the risk of getting pregnant but getting no free money for giving up the baby (and no money to pay for the abortion) should work together to minimize abortions and maximize adoptions.

The incentive for those adopting children needs to be carefully monitored too, to prevent abuses. Add in a lifetime maximum for payments for adoption (and maybe for avoided abortions) and I think there's a real good chance that this could work to actually make abortion <b>rare</b>.

Posted by Nico on September 05, 2008 at 05:37 AM CDT #

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About

I'm an engineer at Oracle (erstwhile Sun), where I've been since 2002, working on Sun_SSH, Solaris Kerberos, Active Directory interoperability, Lustre, and misc. other things.

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