Hey, liberals, let’s imitate Europe…on abortion

Hey, liberals, let’s imitate Europe…on abortion

Mandatory three-day waiting periods, abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy forbidden, women required to give “social reasons” for terminating a pregnancy, abortion completely illegal for married women between 17 and 40 years of age, women forced to undergo ultrasounds and fill out reams of paperwork before abortions…. Where are these restrictions in place? Southern states, perhaps?

Try some European countries, or liberal Israel.

The United States has some of the most liberal abortion laws around, with few restrictions, but in the ultra-liberal, ultra-progressive states of Europe, as well as in Israel, restrictions abound. America’s progressives like to point to European examples for policy approaches, so, why not ask them the next time they start touting some German green policy or French economic equality policy: Hey, if Europe’s the template for superlative governance, why don’t we adopt some of their abortion restrictions? There’s something we can agree on when talking about European examples to follow, right? I mean, if they’re so enlightened, shouldn’t we be following them on abortion policy?

In an August 2013 Atlantic article, reporter Emily Matchar did a good job of compiling the various abortion restrictions in Europe, prompted in part because her native state of North Carolina had just passed what she characterized as a “stunningly restrictive” new abortion law. The link in her article to a story on the law is broken, by the way, but a quick Google search found a story on the governor signing a new law that would force abortion clinics to operate under the same standards as outpatient surgical centers. At any rate, the passage of an abortion law got her to thinking:

I began wondering which countries have the most liberal abortion laws, and how lax these laws actually are. I assumed that Western Europe would be the land of abortion on demand, likely government-subsidized, and possibly with a free bag of condoms afterward. But as it turns out, abortion laws in Europe are both more restrictive and more complicated than that.

Waiting periods, decried by American pro-choicers as infantilizing and unreasonably burdensome, are common in Western Europe.

As Matchar goes through each country’s regulations, she tries to make sense of why these countries would not be as “laissez-faire” about abortion as she’d previously assumed. Her conclusion:

“…in America, abortion laws are about morality, while in Europe, they reflect national ideas of what constitutes the common good.”

One could argue that there are probably many people who, when talking about the common good, believe they do some from a morally superior standpoint, so this argument is thin, at best.

But she goes on to puzzle out that, perhaps because many of these European countries provide so many benefits for babies and mothers, they want a say in your production of said babies.

“Paternalistic abortion laws are, perhaps, the flip side of generous government benefits: The government provides amply for the babies you do have, but in return it gets to quiz you about your reproductive choices.”

Huh? That sounds not so much like paternalism as voyeurism. Besides, if generous government benefits are a motivating force in European abortion law, wouldn’t there be more incentive to allow women to have as many abortions with as few restrictions as posssible? More abortions means fewer generous government payouts, right?

Matchar seems to be working very hard to avoid another possibility: Maybe Europeans, in their progressive enlightenment, actually believe that abortion involves serious moral issues, and therefore some restrictions are not unreasonable.

I resurrected this months-old article as some political attention grew around Democratic candidate for Texas governor, Wendy Davis, who filibustered an abortion restriction law last year, acquired fame in the liberal world because of it, and now is having “messaging” problems as she wades through a muddled biography and shifting positions on abortion itself.

The media made Davis into something of a hero, fighting the good fight against abortion restrictions. Is it a good fight, though? Is it even a popular one?

Polling shows that America is of a mixed mind on abortion, but you’d never know that from the way the issue is reported.

Even ultra-liberal columnist Margaret Carlson, in a Bloomberg column defending Davis’s resume flubs, admitted, almost in passing:

“I don’t agree with Davis on the filibuster that made her famous. Abortions should be illegal after viability, which is coming earlier and earlier as neonatal care improves.”

Carlson is with the Europeans, in other words. Would that we all were.


Libby Sternberg

Libby Sternberg

Libby Sternberg is an Edgar-nominated novelist whose works include humorous women’s fiction, young adult fiction, and historical fiction. Her political writings have appeared at Hot Air, the Weekly Standard, Insight, the Wall Street Journal, and Christian Science Monitor.

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