SOUTH BEND, IN – Perhaps no other issue more simply and cleanly divides the American body politic quite like abortion does. Reasonable enough. No wonder, then, that Americans are reduced to screaming and hair-pulling when the ever-dreaded abortion debate comes up. Except, that is, on most college campuses, where the mantra of the pro-choice lobby reigns supreme. “My body, my choice,” is the watchword, almost unanimous, of the usual campus.

However, in South Bend, despite the location of a useful and oft-used Planned Parenthood Clinic just down the road from the university, the debate rages on, as the pro-choice sentiment more common to college student sentiment competes with campus’s catholic convictions. Notre Dame has an incredibly powerful pro-life club, quite likely the largest and most significant student group on campus, and it also boasts an impressively high rate of student participation in the annual march for life in Washington D.C.

Furthermore, I am hard pressed to wonder: what other major university has huge and aggressive exhibitions about the evil of abortion on the central quad of campus? Notre Dame’s strong pro-life leaning extends well past the restriction of abortion, and even into the debate over the use of contraceptives.

Upon the release of new Trump administration rules for healthcare, “allowing broad religious and moral exemptions to the mandate that all health insurance plans include coverage for contraception,” Notre Dame can now, as it has long desired, “end contraceptive coverage in student and employee plans as soon as December 2017.”[1] This change was greeted with glee at the Golden Dome, where President Jenkins said he “welcomed” the decision. This move, of course, was not met with unanimous acceptance on campus, as last Wednesday, October 10th, the Graduate Workers Collective of Notre Dame held a “March for Reproductive Freedom,” which was attended by hundreds of students and faculty opposing a potential shift in the university’s health care plans.[2]

Amidst all this polemic, I thought I would weigh in on this controversy from a new perspective: that of the conservative pro-choice advocate. How could I possibly arrive at such an inconceivable position? Through the simple application of the conservative principles of pragmatism and governmental minimalism to government policy, which cannot seek to outlaw abortion without delegitimizing itself, as abortions will continue to occur regardless of what the government does, and through expanding itself, as it most grow to even make a token effort at containing abortion.

In December 2012, following the wake of the horrific Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, The Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a fascinating piece about the futility of the boldest of the aims of gun control advocates, sympathetic as they and their motives might be, noting that with over a hundred million guns in private possession of United States’ citizens, a number only increasing every day, any effort to take guns out of Americans' hands must fail.[3] Abortion is a similar issue.

Quite simply, just because we might like to magically wave our hands and make abortion go away - just like so many people would like to do with guns - that doesn’t mean we can do it, or even come close. One cannot legislate abortion out of existence – and it would be folly to try. Imagining federal agents kicking down doors to arrest and punish desperate young women and the doctors taking tremendous risks to treat them is about as inconceivable as ATF functionaries going around and physically confiscations Americans’ firearms: it just isn’t going to happen. Can any conservative argue otherwise?

To believe we can eliminate abortion through government action is the sort of unrealistic pipe-dream conservatives are supposed to disabuse themselves of. Contraceptives and abortifacients wildly popular at least as far back as Roman times, and women have known how to rid themselves of an unwanted pregnancy long before that. Ultimately whether or not you think we should control what a woman does with her own body is meaningless; because the simple truth is that no one but the woman herself can control what she does with her own body. Whether or not Notre Dame will shift its stance to more closely reflect that of its students, we can be sure that the debate will be fierce and won’t end soon.


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