Now that Donald Trump has won the presidency, my news feed has been filled with posts declaring victory for the pro-life movement. Surely Trump will be true to his campaign promises and appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices, and surely those justices will finally overturn Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court will finally rule that the preborn are “persons” and therefore subject the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, thus criminalizing abortion nationwide.
If this does all somehow manage to happen, it will not change the culture that demands abortion like harpies screaming for their bloody feast. Abortion is a demand-side problem, and reducing its supply cannot ultimately solve it.
In “Liberty Defined,” Ron Paul presents his solution to the abortion problem based on decades of experience as an obstetrician and U.S. representative. He believes that while the availability of abortion “changes behavior and actually increases unwanted pregnancies,” he argues that “the abortion problem is more of a social and moral issue than it is a legal one.”
During Paul’s OB-GYN residency in the 1960s, he writes, doctors were performing abortions despite their illegality. The reason? “Society had changed and the majority agreed the laws should be changed as well. The Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe v. Wade caught up with the changes in moral standards.”
We cannot simply hope to use legislation to solve the problem of abortion, but must look to addressing the root of the problem. Abortion is a symptom of a systemic disease. This disease is moral hazard, a metastasized cancer wreaking havoc on society at every level. Its only cure is a return to individual liberty and personal responsibility.
How Moral Hazard Applies to Abortion
“Moral hazard” describes the increase of risk-taking behavior in response to insulation from the negative consequences of those risks. It was once used to describe how insured people will increase immoral or risk-taking behavior, knowing that others would pay for any injury or damage. In today’s rather socialized society, we see moral hazard as the unintended negative consequences of government programs and social practices. It is reflected in a diminished sense of personal responsibility and an increased sense of dependency on the state to protect us from every conceivable risk, including our own unwise behavior.
Another way of understanding moral hazard, in the context of interpersonal relationships, is as codependency. In a relationship that lacks healthy boundaries, one person will use another person’s sense of obligation to escape the consequences of his own actions. For example, a teenager who is abusing drugs or alcohol, flunking out of school, and who wrecks his parents’ car might have parents who repeatedly lend him more money, bail him out of jail, help him with his schoolwork, provide him with a new car, and so on.
It won’t be until the parents begin requiring their son to face the consequences of his choices that he will be motivated to make different choices. Until then, the son will continue to learn that he doesn’t have to suffer any consequences for his actions, a fact which encourages him to take bigger and bigger risks.
Richard W. Fulmer, writing for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), explained the moral hazard the welfare state creates as a weakening or destruction of the “feedback loops linking cause and effect.” This creates incentives for vice and disincentives for virtue.
Moral hazard leads to immoral acts because it interrupts the feedback loops, the natural, built-in principles of cause and effect that would normally guide our actions. In a “free market” society, unwise behavior would lead to undesirable consequences, thus deterring unwise behavior and encouraging responsible behavior. When a powerful agent such as government attempts to play God it interrupts these natural processes, making vice seem to be virtue and virtue to be vice.
The Welfare State Creates Moral Hazard
Every governmental intrusion into our lives that undermines personal responsibility results in moral hazard. If the Federal Reserve can create money out of thin air, it is no wonder that welfare teaches people that they, too, can get something for “nothing” (unless you count the sacrifices of liberty and dignity). When government presumes to dictate, for example, what we can put into our own bodies, it undermines personal responsibility. It teaches us that the consequences of any poor choices we make, whether it’s consuming too much food, alcohol, or meth, can be blamed on someone else.
This is evident in the state’s active role in creating broken homes by undermining fathers. When government rewards single-parent households while financially penalizing intact families, it teaches men that not only are they not needed, but that women and children are better off without them. Is it any wonder that our inner cities have epidemics of single mothers and deadbeat dads?
Welfare programs ultimately harm the people they were designed to help. As anyone acquainted with Austrian economics can tell you, disrupting free market forces through taxation and regulation ultimately leads to lower efficiency, less profit, an increase in prices, and fewer jobs. If poverty is the reason behind many abortions, then we must understand that the same forces which introduce moral hazard and reduce personal responsibility also lead to greater poverty.
Laws that on the surface aim to benefit the poor ultimately lead to fewer jobs and greater poverty, include minimum wage and overtime laws. As Jeffrey Tucker writes of the Obama administration’s overtime rules: “Excellence is punished. Ambition is blocked. Dreams are crushed. And all from one change in the regulations.”
It will surprise no one except those on Medicaid and the willfully deluded that Obamacare has also led to greater poverty, higher unemployment, and slower economic growth. Not only does the Affordable Care Act punish Americans for buying health insurance (those sky-high premiums and deductibles for lousy coverage) or for not buying health insurance, it also punishes you for trying to earn extra money to pay for your health insurance. Those in the working class have learned that they are actually better off not earning extra income, since when they do the government will dramatically reduce their health care subsidies.
End Adoption Regulations
So government intrusion has made providing for a family far more expensive and difficult. You might wonder why, then, adoption isn’t a feasible option. After all, for every baby available for adoption in the United States, there are approximately 36 couples on an adoption waiting list.
Yet ever since Roe v. Wade, women have been largely choosing abortion over adoption. Of course, the abortion peddlers don’t make any money by promoting adoption, so they sell abortions as a painless solution to a temporary problem—a “get out of pregnancy free” card. Adoption, on the other hand, is much more emotionally taxing, they say. It’s much easier to kill a child you’ve never seen than to surrender one you’ve carried and delivered. Love is too costly. Long forgotten is the proverb, “If you love someone, set them free.”
Not surprisingly, pregnant women feel little incentive themselves to choose adoption. That would not be the case if birth parents were allowed to sell the right of parenthood to an adoptive couple.
Many couples also would love to adopt but couldn’t afford the $10,000 to $40,000 an adoption would cost them. Adoption should be a feasible option, but once again, government regulation has disincentivized a virtuous practice. Government should instead deregulate adoption and allow hopeful couples to purchase a child’s parental rights, and everyone will be happier (except for Planned Parenthood).
What We Teach Kids about Sex
Now factor in sexual education, which teaches kids that if they are careful, they can have as much sex as they want with zero consequences. Abstinence is anathema. Yet social worker Joseph Turner writes that sex ed should instead equip students to give informed consent to sexual activity. We need to be teaching kids the real consequences of premarital sex and porn use, and that their best hope for a happy, fulfilled life (and great sex) will be achieved through marriage and family.
Instead, however, our society has been teaching young people that their best hope for a happy and fulfilled life is earning advanced degrees, making lots of money, being “beautiful,” and having many sexual partners. We teach them that getting pregnant will only keep them from reaching “their full potential,” while we should be teaching them that we reach our full potential by dealing with challenges head-on without wronging others in the process. Our society has taught them that avoiding responsibility and escaping consequences in order to pursue one’s own agenda, even if it means you have to kill your own children, is a virtue worthy of praise.
I could go on, but I hope you’re beginning to get the picture: If you want less abortion, we need less government. In every area of our lives, we’ve been conditioned to expect to be able to do whatever we want without suffering any consequences. Abortion is just one more symptom of this systemic disease that has been eating away at self-ownership for decades. If you fight for legal measures to protect the unborn but do not work to reduce the size of government, the pro-life cause will always be struggling against the cultural current.