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Abortion & the Democratic Process

State of the Union: Can democracy handle pre-political issues like abortion?
Signs calling on voters to vote no or vote yes are displayed in Prairie Village, Kansas, on July 28, 2022. (Photo by CAITLIN WILSON/AFP via Getty Images)

On this week’s TAC Right Now, Helen, Micah, Sohrab, and I debated the best strategy for pro-lifers in the wake of yet another setback in Ohio. Micah made the point that while we pro-lifers rightly employ the label ‘pro-abortion’ when describing those who prefer the euphemism ‘pro-choice’, ‘pro-choice’ gets at something that’s perhaps more accurate when describing the American public’s attitude towards abortion.

“With all these sorts of incremental restrictions, you have huge portions of the US population that are totally open to those, because they are in fact pro-choice,” Micah said, “They think abortion is icky, but they also think banning it completely is icky too.”


I think this is right, and we can and should take incremental wins when we can. But it’s also why I’m more pessimistic about whether the democratic process can handle an issue like abortion in the long run. As both the pro-abortion and pro-life sides would likely concede, the muddled middle “pro-choice” position is incoherent. Either unborn children are people worthy of legal protection, or they’re not. The issue—deciding who counts as a human—is so pre-political that I fear the democratic process simply doesn’t have a mechanism to handle it.

My colleagues were more hopeful about the prospects of protecting life through the democratic process, and I hope they’re right. Listen to the full debate and discussion here.