A Somewhat Modest Proposal

I had a brief but significant conversation in the late 1980s.  At the time, I was an anti-abortion member of the Rhode Island Senate, in the days when it was not yet a contradiction in terms to speak of a “pro-life Democrat.” My conversation partner was a political reporter who covered the State House for the Providence Journal.  He was strongly pro-abortion.

I suggested to him that America should try to find a compromise between the pro-life and pro-choice positions, since the conflict between the two sides was tearing the country apart.  The reporter replied that he thought we already had a compromise, Roe v Wade.  (This was before Roe was modified by the Casey ruling of 1992.)

I wondered why Roe would count as a “compromise” when it handed a complete victory to one side in the abortion dispute while inflicting a total defeat on the other side.  Did the reporter think that Roe was a compromise in that it marked a halfway point between (a) a total ban on abortion and (b) mandatory abortion for all pregnant women?

The conversation did not go any further.  What’s the point of discussing compromise with a person who defines “compromise” as “total victory for my side”?

But that conversation gave me an insight into how unwilling pro-abortion fanatics are to meet their opponents halfway.  It should also have given me an insight into the way many journalists were on their way to becoming leftist ideologues – but it didn’t. Then. I didn’t realize this till much later.  I thought this reporter was a weird anomaly. He wasn’t.  He was a sign of things to come.

In any case, there is still a possible compromise that has been waiting to be adopted for the past fifty years or so.  It’s a compromise that a number of European countries have arrived at; namely, to allow abortion for about fifteen weeks into pregnancy while banning it after that.

This is a “half-a-loaf” kind of compromise.  It gives each side some of what it wants, but not everything.  Actually, it gives more to the pro-abortion side than to the anti-abortion side, since the great majority of abortions take place in the first few months of pregnancy.

But it gives something to the pro-life side too.  For it bans abortion for most of the pregnancy, which means it bans some, though far from a majority, of abortions.  Equally important, it establishes the principle that legislatures have the authority to limit abortion; a principle that can be utilized in the future to expand the ban.

Further, it establishes the principle that the “right” to abortion is a man-made right; it is not a right created by God or nature.


I think that many people on the pro-life side would, grudgingly, be willing to accept such a temporary compromise.  They would not, of course, be perfectly happy with it, but they would appreciate that it is immeasurably better than what has existed since 1973.  And so, it’s a compromise that some prolifers are offering right now in several states in the aftermath of Dobbs.

Unfortunately, hardly any leaders of the pro-abortion movement accept even such a generous compromise.  They will have all or nothing.  It must be their way or the highway.

The “right” to abortion, as they see it, barely exists if it does not exist for all nine months.  Anything less than that is tyranny – religious fanatics trying to deprive women of their God-given right to bodily autonomy.  (It would be a “God-given” right if the leaders of the abortion movement believed in God.)

Well, as a thought experiment, let me imagine a modest proposal aimed at keeping both sides happy.  I propose a New Manhattan Project (NMP).  It involves two steps:

(1) We invent an artificial uterus (just as we have invented an artificial heart), capable of nurturing and protecting an unborn baby from soon after conception till the moment of birth.

(2) We invent new surgical procedures capable of safely extracting an unborn baby from the womb and transplanting it into the artificial uterus.

This NMP will require that we assemble an immense number of talented – nay, brilliant – medical scientists, surgeons, biologists, chemists, engineers of various kinds, plus numerous administrators, not to mention even greater numbers of secondary and tertiary assistants.

It goes without saying that it will be tremendously expensive, requiring therefore that the NMP be mainly funded by the federal government.

It’s easy to predict what would follow.

“Can the taxpayers of American afford to do this?” it will be asked.  A better question would be: “Can we afford not to do this?”  Roe opened up a great rift in America between moral conservatives on the one hand and moral liberals on the other.  Over the ensuing decades this rift has become wider and wider, as well as deeper and deeper.  The country is now split as it has not been split since the end of the Civil War.  If we allow the chasm to keep growing, we will soon have no country left.

When the NMP is successful, every pregnant woman will be assured of her bodily autonomy.  She’ll be able to get rid of her baby without killing it.  That should keep prochoice people happy.  And since no unborn baby will be killed, prolife people will also be happy.

So, have I come up with a compromise solution to the abortion controversy that, by keeping both sides happy, will prevent the United States from falling apart or perhaps even falling into civil war?

Alas, no. Because the technological solution would cast a negative light back on sixty years of wanton baby killing.

And besides, in the pro-abortion camp there are many who regard abortion, not as a necessary evil, but as a positive good.  It pleases them to support the homicide of unborn babies.  Why would anybody be pleased to do this? Who knows?  Perhaps because they hate Christianity.

Or perhaps because they hate God.


*Image: “Artificial Womb Technology: From Sci-Fi Concept to Future Reality” by Bereket Kassaye [From Youth Time, via Shutterstock]

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David Carlin is a retired professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America, Three Sexual Revolutions: Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, and most recently Atheistic Humanism, the Democratic Party, and the Catholic Church.