On one point, I think Ponnuru is right: some liberal politicians do have a habit of overdoing the "tragic, heartbreaking decision" rhetoric. To the extent that this is a reflection of reality for the way some women feel, it's fine. But it also shapes reality, and when it gets repeated too often it suggests that abortion should be a tragic, heartbreaking decision. As Ponnuru says, that's inevitably a concession to the pro-life worldview.Until I read this passage it had never occurred to me that anyone with any intelligence would consider abortion as anything other than something that should be a tragic decision. Perhaps I'm just not entirely getting Drum's drift here, but it seems he is arguing that there is nothing necessarily wrong with an abortion decision being not particularly difficult.
I realise I'm sticking my head into the lion's mouth here (though those who know me well will know that abortion is easily the issue on which I am most conservative), but it's taken me years to the point where I'm even comfortable supporting abortion at all. Just to be clear, I've never been in favour of outlawing it, but it just took me a long time to view it as morally acceptable. It was ultimately Judith Jarvis Thomas' incredibly good article that ultimately changed my mind. The crux of her argument (and I am simplifying a great deal, so you should read the whole thing) is that you are not responsible for your pregnancy if the odds are sufficiently against it happening, and so carrying the baby to term is an act of goodwill that you cannot be morally expected (I'm not sure that that's good English, but I hope the meaning is clear) to perform. To not perform it might seem selfish, but it not your responsibility to do so, just as if you receive a phone call from someone you don't know in Australia saying they are dying and only a blood transfusion from you will save them, it is not your responsibility to hop on a plane, despite the fact that most people would agree that saving people's lives is something you should do if you get the chance.
That seems about right to me, certainly it made me realise that my objections to abortion are all about my failure to understand why someone wouldn't make that sacrificial act, which is just my opinion (and one that is much easier to hold when you don't have a womb) and thus entirely irrelevant to what anyone else chooses to do. What I don't get is why we wouldn't want to recognise that whilst you're not required to perform the charitable act, failing to do so has major consequences. I might not get on a 737 and head to Cairns, but I know that by doing so I am allowing someone to die. Is Drum's argument that because it's a severe imposition for me to make the trip, I shouldn't find it hard to let this person die, knowing I could have saved them? That seems very strange. By the same token, a pregnant woman is not responsible for her foetus, should she choose not to be, and is thus not required to give birth to the baby that would result, but the only alternative is robbing a potential human being of the chance of life, and that is a hard fact that cannot be escaped.
I don't think pointing out the decision to have an abortion should be difficult, and yes, tragic, is a concession to pro-life groups; it's a simple recognition of the choice being made.
Edited for clarity.