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 The abortion debate is arguably one of the most oversimplified contentious issues in all of public policy. The intricacies of navigating the legal statutes and case precedence that shapes the regulations governing the practice are oftentimes are glossed over in public discourse. This rash reductionist approach has shifted a complex topic into a simple categorical dichotomy. Easily making it a fervent “wedge issue” that has formulated many pithy platitudes and “bump-sticker slogans”.  These slogans which are so pleasing to the ear could have effortless you contrived by a marketing team. All operate more like a carefully constructed marketing campaign than a multi-disciplinary analysis. This not only makes the abortion debate stale and uninspiring but highly predictable because both sides of the fence utilize an “all-or-nothing” strategy of argumentation.  This is highly imprecise for a subject that is steeped in nuisance and minuscule details.  Below is the list of disciplines that intersect in the abortion debate:

  • Medicine
  • Science
  • Philosophy/Logic/ Ethics
  • Political Science
  • Law
  • Theology
  • Sociology
  • History
  • Economics

If a pertinent area of study was neglected, I sincerely apologize. However, while not completely exhaustive, this list conveys exactly how complex the issue is. The intersection of all these vast areas of study converges on a single point,  the refutation or the defense of  Roe V. Wade (1972). This one case has become the quintessential Schellingian focal point in the abortion debate. Potentially providing some insight into why the debate is so one-dimensional.   

6 thoughts on “Abortion: An Oversimplified Issue

  1. I love the reference to the late Thomas Schelling, one of my intellectual heroes! Roe v Wade has to be one of the worst decisions in the annals of Supreme Court history. Instead of leaving the abortion issue up to the States to decide, SCOTUS decided to act like a “super-legislature” thus polarizing the entire nation …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw the point of convergence on that one case as being a clear manifestation of this concept.

      This is not the first time I have heard that Roe was flawed law. I forgot where I heard this, but I remember hearing legal experts referring to it as “poorly written”. As a layperson it would be risky for me to expound any further on this opinion. Shockingly enough, even a lot of “pro-choice” advocates believe it is poorly written.

      Most of the criticisms I have heard related to the actual content of the law, not the scope of application. You are right, it is crazy to have the federal government weigh in on the matter. As you mention, that is what has made an issue with quite a bit of gray area into a dichotomy.

      I also would surmise another issue being the conflation of legal arguments with ethical ones. While we need both perspectives to properly address the issue, it is problematic to improperly use ethical arguments when debating a matter of law.

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  2. It’s difficult for me to think of any current issues which haven’t been ridiculously oversimplified to accommodate the intellectual laziness of our populace. For example, many are content with accepting univariate explanations for complex problems.

    Regarding abortion, I am glad that you devoted time to point out the intersection of disciplines. It reminded me of my limitations and the necessity for unwavering humility when attempting to understand an incredibly diverse world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. It’s easy to fall prey to our own opinions when discussing complex issues. As you mention, we need to be mindful of this and exercise restraint.

      I would say then oversimplification of public policy is multilayered. If it’s too complex and opaque no one will care. Removing the technical aspects of the debate and fuel the conversation with emotions and polemics, that will get people excited. However, at the expense of the quality of the debate. Oversimplification also lends it self to polarization through eliminating any gray area. Which is why most commentary now falls into dichotomies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I couldn’t agree more! It is damaging in the long-run to sacrifice the quality of the debate at the altar of oversimplification. Of course, this raises the question : why not leave some things as they are, that is, who cares if certain topics remain complicated or incomprehensible to most people [?]

        And yes, dichotomies are clearly a poor substitute for productive discourse. Not to mention, they effectively destabilize (at least, to some degree) our relations with one another.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The individuals that seek to oversimplify complex issues stand to gain from garnering public support. Without the numbers a specific coalition could lose the policy battle. Appealing to emotions and bumper sticker slogans will give you the numbers to mobilize voters and activists alike.

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