One of the sad aspects of contemporary existence is the way that false dilemmas are so common. When it comes to the contentious question of the regulation of the womb, many people appear to be most interested in a false dilemma, where unless the right of women to do what they want in all cases whatsoever is secured that society will go into a patriarchal age where women are under domination by women and their bodies and wombs will not belong to them at all. The shrillness of the rhetoric of The Handmaid’s Tale and others of that ilk demonstrates the lack of sound reason on the part of those who demand as a right an act that denies the right to life for unborn children. What sort of argument can be made for the regulation of the womb that does not involve the sort of patriarchy that people would be afraid of?
Let us note at the beginning that it is obvious that the unborn child is a different life than that of the mother. Beyond a certain point of development, the child would be able to exist in incubation outside of the womb. Unborn children have their own separate genetic identity that is made up of the combined genetic inheritance from both parents, and they have their own personalities that can be somewhat influenced and recognized in the womb. And there is compelling evidence of the silent screams that demonstrate the suffering that is caused by acts of violence committed against the unborn, in ways that do not amount to pleasant viewing but which demonstrate that there is a certain degree of awareness and cognizance among children before departing the womb. The fact that the child is a different being than its mother (or father) indicates that the child has its own interests that ought to be defended by someone. We would naturally expect both fathers and mothers to stick up for the interests of their unborn children, and someone must if they fail to, since unborn children are even more vulnerable than those children who have been born and who still require protection and care for a considerable length of time from the cruelties of this world.
Let us also note that the fact that the unborn child has interests of its own that are worthy of protection cuts against either the tyranny of the father or the tyranny of the mother. A society that honors the right to life of unborn children would oppose both the wanton destruction of the unborn by careless women who lack natural affection as well as the hostility of would-be patriarchs who are not pleased by the changes in their own life or well-being that would follow having (more) children. While society would best be served by parents seeking the best interests of their children, both before and after birth, this world is all too full of examples where this is not the case and where parents pursue their own private pleasures despite the negative impacts these self-destructive behaviors have on their offspring. And the existence of interests that are worthy of protection and the failure of those who are closest to the situation to defend and uphold those interests tends to increase the amount of intrusive government involvement in the defense of those interests. We pay a heavy price in the loss of freedom when our lack of virtue encourages or induces government to step in in order to make sure that the innocent and vulnerable are protected from our carelessness, neglect, and abuse.
Let us not forget that governments have always been somewhat slow about defending the well-being of children. In the late 1800’s, before child abuse laws were on the books, early abusive parents were convicted through laws against animal abuse, because the rights of animals were protected above and beyond those of children. We see the same situation in our contemporary society. A great many of us would likely prefer that government regulation would be as little as possible, but it must be conceded that the implications of Colson’s law demonstrate that the failure of segments of the population to self-regulate and to act according to a morally upright conscience increases the need for regulation and enforcement. We might therefore ask if there are any grounds that would justify the expense of government regulation of the womb, and indeed there are. The preservation of social welfare for the aging and indigent requires a growing population, and the most obvious ways for a population to grow are either through immigration (which threatens the demographic security of a nation) or through natural increase (which is far more beneficial in nature), and there are compelling social reasons why encouraging natural increase to preserve the solvency of public promises would lead a government to regulate the womb to encourage the increase in the number of offspring that native-born American citizens have. And those needs have nothing to do with any supposed patriarchy.