One of the National Review’s writers goes apoplectic over a television episode where the characters — though avowedly pro-choice — blanche at the prospect of targeted abortion, used to eliminate undesirable traits rather than in general family planning. Apparently there’s some contradiction between supporting “abortion on demand,” but posing moral limits to its application.
In fact, there is none. First, there is no such thing as “abortion on demand.” Although it suits the right to frame the issue that way, since Roe, there have always been considerable limits on the abortion right, and there are certainly even more today. Second, by supporting the notion that women may, with a minimum of government interference, elect to terminate a pregnancy, we nowhere imply that the decision shouldn’t be made with solemnity, and an appreciation for what it entails. That is to say, we agree it shouldn’t be made freely. We would grant women the discretion to terminate a pregnancy, and hope that discretion is used responsibly.
Revulsion at how and why an individual chooses to exercise a right is not incompatible with the belief that they should have the right in the first place. Our writer’s belief to the contrary is actually quite revealing: contrary to the conservative trope, that government should get out of the way and let us make our own choices, the author apparently assumes that government regulation is the only meaningful way to express some moral limitation on the exercise of a constitutional right.
That is not, and cannot be true. The basis of a free society is the assumption that citizens can be trusted to make the right choices, without requiring the government to authorize their every step. Our Constitution unquestionably grants us important, even dangerous rights — like the right to bear arms, or even the right to raise a family — but all of those rights are circumscribed by duties both legal and moral. We can trust our citizens, and we shouldn’t use laws to secure that trust except where necessary.