Shouldn't abortion remain legal because of the unfairness that might otherwise result if abortions were affordable only by the rich who could travel abroad?

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Abortions and Economic Inequity

Pro-choice advocates often argue that prior to abortion being legalized, pregnant women who did not go to unscrupulous physicians or “back-alley butchers” traveled to foreign nations where abortions were legal. This was an option open only to rich women who could afford such an expense. Hence, Roe v. Wade has made the current situation fairer for poor women. Therefore, if abortion is prohibited it will not prevent rich women from having safe and legal abortions elsewhere.[1]

This argument is fallacious: it assumes that legal abortion is a moral good which poor women will be denied if abortion is made illegal. But since the morality of abortion is the point under question, the pro-choice proponent assumes what he or she is trying to prove and therefore begs the question.

One can think of a number of examples to better understand this point. To cite one, we would consider it outrageous if someone argued that the hiring of hit men to kill one's enemies should be legalized, since—after all—the poor do not have easy economic access to such “professionals.”

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In the abortion debate the question of whether abortion entails the death of a being who is fully human must be answered before the question of fairness is even asked. That is to say, since equal opportunity to eliminate an innocent human being is rarely if ever a moral good, the question of whether it is fair that certain rich people will have privileged access to abortion if it becomes illegal must be answered after we answer the question of whether abortion in fact is not the killing of an innocent human life. For it is not true that the vices of the wealthy are virtues simply because the poor are denied them.


  1. Mary Calderone, “Illegal Abortion as a Public Health Problem,” in American Journal of Health 50 (July 1960):949. [up]

Author: Francis J. Beckwith. Adapted from a series in Christian Research Journal, Spring 1991. Provided with permission by Summit Ministries and the author.

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