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The Thought Experiment that Broke Your Brain - Dilbert Blog

The Thought Experiment that Broke Your Brain

Here’s a little thought experiment you can try at home. Identify a Clinton supporter who cares deeply about keeping abortion legal. Ask the person if they would support the following change in Federal law:

Proposed: The Federal government declares abortion to be legal under federal law – now and for all time – for both the doctor and the patient, when the procedure is done in the first trimester.

I expect that most people who favor abortion would agree with this proposed law. It says exactly what they want – that abortion would be legal under federal law.

The trick is that I just described Trump’s policy preference for abortion. Trump prefers that abortion be legal from a federal perspective and stay that way. States would still be free to impose restrictions, but the federal government would be out of it. 

Notice that all I did for this thought experiment was restate Trump’s position as a positive. Trump wants to select Supreme Court justices that take the federal government out of the abortion question and leave it to the states to decide. 

Historically, the reason our Constitution leaves a lot of power to the states is because local governments have a better feel for their citizens, and some states are very different from others. One size doesn’t fit all. For practical reasons, you want the government that is closest to the people making the life-and-death decisions such as capital punishment, abortion, and doctor-assisted-dying. 

That thinking made sense a few hundred years ago when people were not as mobile and the Internet didn’t exist. But imagine how different things would be today if Roe Vs. Wade were overturned in the courts. Here’s how that would probably end up:

1. Some states would immediately ban abortions.

2. States with bans would become cancerous to major employers who can’t recruit talent to a state with no abortion rights. Over time, most states would have to cave to the economics of it.

3. Volunteer networks would spring up that provide services to transport women who want abortions to neighboring states. There is so much passion around this topic that you can guarantee an immediate work-around network will emerge, probably with apps that help women find rides and housing in nearby states. This wasn’t practical before Roe Vs. Wade but it would be totally feasible now, with the Internet and changing views on the acceptability of abortion.

4. Insurance options might pop up that pay for transportation and housing to neighboring states for abortions. Just order an Uber car and submit the receipt to your insurance plan for reimbursement.

My point is that unlike the era in which Roe Vs. Wade first came into being, the Internet makes it far more practical to have state-specific abortion laws. Social media would make it difficult for employers to locate in abortion-limited states, and apps would make it easy to organize trips to neighboring states for abortions.

None of this describes a world that I prefer. I’m just thinking it through with you. This is a good time for my disclaimer.

Disclaimer: My personal opinion on abortion is that men should stay out of the debate and let women collectively decide what the laws should be. My reasoning is that women have an extra level of appreciation for the topic, more skin in the game, and they are generally better informed on this topic than men. Whatever women decide for abortion laws will be more credible than any decision that is watered down by the opinions of men. This is one of several ways in which I am more liberal than most liberals. 

You might want to buy my book because winter is coming.