That's not true. Look at the laws in Mississippi: state-dictated counseling, a 24-hour waiting period, and requirement that "both parents of a girl under 18 must consent to the abortion." I don't like these laws, but they're proof that regulation exists throughout pregnancy. Their consideration was part of a democratic debate that goes on every day across this country. Pro-lifers engage freely in this debate, sometimes even with the support of the New York Times.
And that's a good thing. Debates produce an exchange of ideas and criticism that sharpens the thinking of both sides. By wrestling honestly with the arguments against abortion regulation, Douthat has come to a nuanced understanding that defies pro-life absolutism. He's advancing the conversation.
The next challenge is to think as carefully about regulation as we do about morality. Under the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, for example, "Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both." Criminal investigation? Two years in prison? Is that the kind of regulation we want?
"The law is a not a philosophy seminar," Douthat writes. "It's the place where morality meets custom, and compromise, and common sense." But law is more than that. It's the set of rules enforced by police, detectives, judges, and jails. Banning abortions isn't just a statement of "respect for human life," as many pro-lifers imagine. It's a commitment to investigate, prosecute, and punish.
I'm all for morality, custom, compromise, and common sense. These elements of society have plenty to say about abortion, and they're saying it. But criminal law? Do we really want to go that far?