Despite the fact that the strength of argument is clearly on the pro-life side—nobody except a handful of academics would question the grave wrongness of abortion were pregnancy never inconvenient—somehow ordinary intelligent people, like our students, often remain unconvinced.
As Ayer might have put it, there’s a normative claim and a factual claim here. And they’re both wrong. I’ll leave the discussion of the normative claim to the experts. (Take it away, 617 Bloggers!) But what of the factual claim, that nobody except academics would believe abortion is permissible if it were not for the associated inconvenience? Is this true?
Well, Pruss charmingly gives no evidence whatsoever for his claim, so I’ll guess it’s just basically anecdotal evidence. So I’ll offer my competing anecdotal evidence. Anyone who wants to substitute actual evidence should feel free to do so.
In my experience, the ‘convenience’ argument for the permissibility of abortion is more persuasive among men than it is among women. Pro-choice women are more often moved by arguments to do with autonomy. And by this I mean not just arguments to do with bodily autonomy, narrowly construed, but to do with the right to control fundamental aspects of one’s life, such as if and when one will procreate. (I seem to recall Liz Harman had some good discussion of this point somewhere, but I can’t find the relevant paper online.) You can sort of test for this by getting people’s reaction to the use of ectogenesis as an alternative to abortion. I think that many, if not most, pro-choice men think that there would not be a right to abortion if it were possible to (relatively painlessly) remove the foetus and have it grow in an incubator and be nurtured by adoptive parents. My impression is that relatively few pro-choice women (even non-academics!), think this possibility would be a sufficient reason to ban abortion. But if Pruss’s assumption were correct, they all should find this a compelling reason to introduce a ban, because given this possibility there need not be the ‘inconvenience’ of pregnancy.
As I said, I don’t have the actual data at my fingertips to support all my assertions here, but if anyone knows where to find relevant data, the comments section is open!