Should Pro-Lifers Support TRAP Laws?

TRAP laws (Targeted Regulations of Abortion) have become an important policy tool for the pro-life movement at the state level. They’ve used these laws to effectively close many abortion clinics, based on the dubious claim that the regulations that led the clinics to close were necessary to protect women’s health. The Supreme Court just struck down a TRAP Louisiana, as they did in Texas a few years earlier.

For the purposes of this post, assume the pro-life position is correct. Should pro-lifers support TRAP laws? On the one hand, the answer seems to be yes, because stopping abortion is a moral emergency, and shutting down abortion clinics probably reduces the abortion rate somewhat.

One might reply that deception is wrong even in the favor of one’s most important political objectives, and even when your opponents do it. But stopping abortion might be so morally urgent that deception can be justified. So this point will probably only succeed for pro-lifers who think deception is always prohibited (like orthodox Catholics).

The better argument against supporting TRAP laws is that doing so discredits the character of the pro-life movement. Recall that the average pro-choice activist doesn’t usually want to talk about whether the unborn are persons; they seldom want to talk philosophy with pro-lifers. Instead, they usually to talk about whether pro-lifers hate the poor and want to control women. I know many pro-choicers who are absolutely convinced that pro-lifers *must* be badly motivated. Why? I can’t tell. But here’s my guess. If pro-lifers are sincere in their love for the unborn, and virtuous in fighting for their cause, they are harder to dismiss, and their arguments are harder to dismiss. And this in turn raises the possibility that pro-lifers might be right. Scary stuff for progressives who tend to think of themselves as on the right side of history.

That’s why I think pro-lifers should want their political and rhetorical strategies to be above reproach, to show those on the fence that pro-lifers aren’t monsters, that they don’t hate women, and that they support the poor. So perhaps the pro-life movement went down the wrong road in these cases.

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