Putting the Worst Face on It

Or, I promise to write about something else next time.

As I have made clear recently, of the major candidates for President of the United States beginning in 2012 - which I currently estimate as current president Obama, and challengers Romney, Paul, and Santorum - I am most sympathetic to Santorum, with Paul running a close second and Romney a distant third.  Practically this matters very little at the moment as I am not registered with any party affiliation at all, but there it is.

The reasons for my attraction to Paul and dislike for Obama should be clear to anyone reading this blog; I will not go into them in detail here.  Romney I distrust as a consummate politico, though I have little objection to his current "face".  Why Santorum?  There are three main reasons.

In the first place, I agree in large part with Santorum's presuppositions and, unsurprisingly, also most of his political conclusions.

In the second, he is of all the candidates - and this includes Paul - the one most open about what he believes and has done.  Even if I disagreed with him substantially, I could respect him for that, as I hold Biden or Nader in relatively higher regard than our current actual President, given what I know of them.  Santorum is the only candidate about whom I can confidently say that the reasons for voting for him are the same reasons as those for voting against him.

And in the last place, Santorum is the candidate most maligned and misrepresented both in the mainstream press and by my recent favorite whipping boys, the internet liberals.  After my last post, I wanted to let the subject drop, but then the ugly side of uncivil discourse raised its head again.

I have The Daily What in my feed for a number of reasons - tech stuff, nerd news, cool videos of Messi, random trivia - but when it comes to political discourse they exemplify the failures of the collective liberal internet.  Here is the post in question.

Let's look through what this supposedly informative post does to Santorum.  It takes little analysis to conclude that the entire post is made from a viewpoint of supporting Obama.

First, the graphic presents a good picture of Obama and a bad one of Santorum.  (Thus my headline.)  We like to think superficialities like that don't matter, but we know they really do make a difference.

Second, Santorum's positions are given either the worst possible spin, or misrepresented entirely.  Look:
  • "Rape victims should make the best of it," is what is quoted.  This is part and parcel of the steadfast refusal to admit the humanity of unborn children, on which point myself and others have said so much as to make further commentary here fruitless.  But not even a tiny effort is made to understand Santorum - the poster is only interesting in discrediting him to like-minded people.
  • "Free prenatal testing leads to more abortions," is, I am forced to assume by the tone of the post, held up for ridicule.  Yet we live in an age where "sex-selective abortion" is the new big PC worry, and where mothers are encouraged to abort "defective" or handicapped children.  How exactly is Santorum wrong on this one?
  • "Contrary to the Constitution, the separation of church and state should not be absolute," - oh wait, I just wrote about that.
To review, a la fact checkers: the three positions mentioned are, for the first, presented with bias; for the second, Santorum's position is factually correct; and for the third, he is being provably misrepresented.

Now it is important in civil discourse to be as accurate as possible and - perhaps more importantly - to assume the best when possible.  Thus I largely keep silent on the record of Obama's administration.  But I am losing patience, and feel called on to demonstrate what could be done.  If I wanted to apply an "internet conservative" approach to the President, I would discuss in detail at least the following two things, which - unlike the attacks on Santorum - are beyond disproof.
  • The administration itself, if not Obama himself, is fundamentally dishonest.  The Obamacare package was rushed and bullied through Congress and we still don't know the half of it; bad enough, but that is politics.  Worse, the package was reputedly passed on the back of an executive promise to issue an order mandating protection for those not wanting to be forced to pay for abortions: even if not, the Constitution and all of American law is rife with such protections.  Obama still has not, to my knowledge, given such an order, and in fact - well, you've maybe heard of the HHS mandate which is both diametrically opposed to the alleged promise and in clear defiance of American traditions.  His so-called compromise is anything but.
  • The administration has made investments - in, most notably, Solyndra - driven by ideology, cronyism, or sheer bad judgment.  Meanwhile, such economic progress as has been made has been made in the interval while the freshly reinvigorated Republicans in Congress have tied the administration's hands to prevent any of the neo-socialist bailouts that didn't help the mess in the first place (thanks Bush - or Keynes?  FDR?).  And the lesson goes unlearned by either Democrat bigwigs or the administration itself, while the Republican candidates, noticing facts and listening to constituents, are all doubling down with promises to continue the approach and in fact go farther.
You may justly say that I am clearly biased myself.  Very good - I admit it.  I admit it blatantly and without shame.  In case you have not figured this out yet: in the modern American political continuum I count myself - however inaccurate the name is objectively - as a conservative.  What you cannot demonstrate - and I will publicly correct myself, on this blog or wherever else you may comment, if you can demonstrate it - is that anything I have said here is factually incorrect.  If I have accused someone incorrectly, I will not only correct myself but apologize.

Bring it.


Did Santorum Just Disqualify Himself?

It is being trumpeted by the internet liberals everywhere that Santorum is just confirming his dedication to turning America into a theocracy.  Take this:

"I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute," he told 'This Week' host George Stephanopoulos. "The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country...to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up."
Now Santorum's use, as a Catholic, of "the church" is troubling.  It brings to mind images of medieval Roman triumphalism.  On the other hand, let's go find the linked ABC transcript and see what the context is.  Ah, he continues:

This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion. That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square. Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, "No, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate." [quotes added] Go on and read the speech. "I will have nothing to do with faith. I won't consult with people of faith." [again] It was an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent at the time of 1960. And I went down to Houston, Texas 50 years almost to the day, and gave a speech and talked about how important it is for everybody to feel welcome in the public square. People of faith, people of no faith, and be able to bring their ideas, to bring their passions into the public square and have it out.
Well that's not so bad, is it?  I get a say, the Muslim across the parking lot gets a say, the atheist down the road gets a say - sounds pretty much like the American ideal Santorum is defending.

Here is a newsflash: this should not be surprising to anyone paying attention to Santorum except the ones already determined to shout him down because he is openly religious.  Is his position as a Catholic antithetical to everything Kennedy presented himself as, as someone who said faith does not matter?  Yes, yes of course.  But then, Kennedy was hardly a moral exemplar - do we want to make him our model?

But the article I cited quotes Jefferson, citing him against Santorum as follows:

...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
A very minimal knowledge of history will be sufficient to dismiss this as a counter-argument.  The worry at the time of the Founding was the use of state power to oppress dissenting religions.  Certainly a state church - as in England - could provide the excuse.  Certainly a "universal" church, as the Roman Catholic was claimed to be over Spain, could provide the incentive.  But the drive of the amendment in question was hardly to abolish belief, but to protect it.  It is noteworthy that the state churches of the States were in no wise disestablished by the Constitution - merely the case was made that in the new united country, a federal state church was beyond a laughably bad idea.  Maryland was Catholic, Massachusetts officially Puritan, Pennsylvania tolerant, New York still Dutch and reformed, or else Anglican, but mainly cosmopolitan, Rhode Island dissenting but free.

Further amendments and the flow of history abolished these State establishments or let them gently into the night, but to suggest the Constitution or the Founders were against religious influences in toto is absurd.  This is the context Jefferson spoke from: one in which the greatest fear was a religious establishment forbidding other public religious expression.  Would they have looked with any greater favor on a "secular establishment" being permitted to dismiss religion from the public square instead?  This is what Santorum is protesting against: the movement over the last century to put religion in its place and dismiss its expressions from politics and public functions.  What we saw with the Kennedy candidacy, what was then a lingering anti-Catholicism which forced a (badly behaved and mostly nominal) Catholic to all but publicly disavow his faith, we now see as a general anti-religiosity.  Are you inclined to doubt this?  Consider, Santorum cannot even point this out, state this hypothesis without being quoted out of context and vilified.  I see your fears of so-called "theocracy", manufactured without context and with prejudice, and raise you public discrimination (however extra-legal) again religious opinion.


Comments on Something Directly Relevant to Me

Dick Cavett, who is an editorialist on the New York Times website, has written an article lambasting Santorum, for, of all things, homeschooling his children.  There are many reasonable causes for objecting to Santorum (though I think not as many as there are to object to almost any other candidate), but a blanket dismissal of homeschooling is not one of them.  I say this as a homeschooled student who is now a teacher.

Cavett's argument is really two-fold.  In the first place, he obviously regards Santorum as deranged or at least deviant.  Eight kids?  Professing faithfulness to his church's teaching?  Not looking like a president?  Wearing sweater-vests?  These are all things he cites as problems with Santorum, and by the time he is done with all of that Cavett ought to be out of a job, because - well, he admits himself that we all know making fun of a person's appearance is rude.  But having the opinions he does, for Cavett homeschooling is clearly just a stick to beat Santorum with, or maybe Santorum is a stick to beat homeschooling with, because to Cavett the only conceivably legitimate teaching is that done by a professional.  After all, he says,

Teaching is an art and a profession requiring years of training. Where did the idea come from that anybody can do it? How many parents can intuit how to do it?

There is a basic flaw here in his chain of reasoning.  Certainly if teaching were the demanding, specialized thing he makes it out to be, then he might have a point.  Unfortunately for his case, it is not.  To take his claim back to front, rather than asking how parents can figure out how to teach it would be more accurate to ask how many parents do not teach their children anything.  Ignoring school for the moment, who taught you to read, to rake leaves, to change a tire, to clean your room, to share with others, to use the right fork?  Who coached your first soccer game, went out driving with you for your permit, showed you how to do laundry, cook pasta, take care of a dog (or the lawnmower), manage a checking account?  (I have looked: that last definitely was not your math book these days.)  Of course mom and dad do not usually have the expertise to teach all the nuanced multiplicity of disciplines the modern education wants to demand, but the old standbys: reading, writing, and arithmetic?  They know those, and they can teach them.  Teaching is a human thing.

Of course I am not saying they always do teach them.  I have dealt with plenty of homeschooled students who cannot figure out a simple proportion and get lost in decimals.  On the other hand, there are a fair number of students from a "regular" school who do no better.  I would say that the craze for online classes seems to have produced some troubling results - but no more troubling than, say, the numbers of students who have trouble reading because they were faddishly protected from phonics.  (And I would note, while I am at it, that online classes, like most things, can be done well or badly.)

The obvious retort to my above description is to ask, "What about dealing with all kinds of kids?"  or, "What about the tricky subjects?"  On the first point, I would have been inclined to admit that classroom management (incidentally not something pertinent to homeschooling) might be a carefully learned professional skill, were it not for the curious case that I find myself a teacher, and I believe a reasonably good one, having taken exactly zero classes or training sessions in any sort of educationism.  I had what we call a liberal education, which is to say some of everything with a lot of books in different languages; I then took my bachelor's degree in a subject - mathematics, for the curious - and after some of the usual post-collegiate adventures, I have settled down to teach that subject to highschool students, with what seems to me very little difficulty fitting in.  For those keeping score at home, let me sum up: I was a homeschooled student who have fit comfortably into the school environment in the profession Cavett considers so exclusive with absolutely no training.  For those more inclined to the economic argument, there is a reason teachers' salaries are low (at least out on the market): almost anybody can do it.

As to the second: see above what I said about doing things well or badly.  The conscientious homeschooler - and even Cavett would have to admit that whatever else Santorum is, he is conscientious - finds a tutor, or a class to share, or works cooperatively with others.  And even if they did not - if the homeschooled child's education was limited to reading, writing, basic arithmetic, and nothing else at all, I posit that while limited it would still be sufficient to get along.  How many of us really use a foreign language even monthly, or need to know the phylogenetic origin of the potatoes we eat?

The funny thing is, Cavett is forced in the end to admit that there are times homeschooling is a responsible choice, thus making this blogpost mostly irrelevant beyond pointing out that it might be responsible more often than he thinks.  But he is absolutely appalled at homeschooling, in general - the truth comes out! - not really because of academic or even social concerns so much as such as for worldview reasons.  Santorum's (or other) homeschooled children might not learn the definite truth that the universe has been around forever and life accidentally happened somehow, or that we should respect all other cultures (but not our own), or that the woman over there is "him" because she, I mean he, said so.  These people have to learn that the logic stuff they are all so fond of only extends so far, and definitely not to reality!


Infanticide and the Pater Familias

If every child conceived and then killed by abortion had been allowed to live another year before being murdered, not only would the epidemic of infanticide which already exists be essentially unchanged in its character, the moral stakes would be clear to all, beyond muddlement.  We know better than to kill six month old children.  We know that even in infancy the nature of a person - that he or she is a person - does not change.  To question this seems absurd: am I unable to be identified with myself in college?  In highschool?  As a five year old?  I have pictures, memories, of all those times, and so do many who know me.  Why then can I not reasonably identify with my unborn self?  (I have pictures of that too.)  As a young adult, my rights go unquestioned: but go back far enough in my life, and I have people telling me they mysteriously vanish.

When?  Oh, um... well, definitely sometime before, um... let me get back to you on that one.  I have a partial-birth abortion advocate on line two and my argument feels kind of queasy right now because I don't quite know how to draw a definite line between my much more civilized opinion and whatever he wants.

In short, the denial of the personhood of the unborn person is arbitrary: while cloaked in sometimes valid-seeming babble about viability and the survival (to take the highest the case is put) of the mother*, these serve merely to obscure the issue.  That issue is that a person, a unique human being, is  under certain conditions - which they can not, as a criminal could, be held responsible for - considered liable to the whims of another person in all things, even on the question of life and death.

This is not consistent with the developed theories of natural law morality as put forth either by Christian culture or the Enlightenment, which both insist on the universality of human rights, whether considered God-given and obvious or merely patterns that can be deduced.  As far as I know they are not consistent with any such theories of universal morality.  Whether or not such other constructions provide justifying exceptions is beyond my knowledge; that such exceptions, if they exist, are not logically consistent I am confident.  (And in fact, a double-standard exists legally: while maintaining a bizarre "right" to kill a child outright, various products, most notably alcohol and tobacco, carry warnings against risks to the unborn child.  Obvious morality cannot be brushed so easily out of our consciousness.)

What might serve to justify abortion is an ancient principle long since rejected in theory: we might recognize it best in feudalism or the rights of the pater familias.  In either case, a power of life and death was given up in many cases to a person with some legal responsibility over or for others.  This aspect of feudalism - like many others - is seen as backward and barbaric by most modern commentators, but it is the Roman custom which really draws their ire, as an example of subjugatory patriarchy.

Yet under what other logic can you justify the common refrain, "Leave my body alone!"?  A moralist railing against the capricious whims of the patrician slave-owner or concubine-keeper would be met equally vehemently by an appeal to the custom and to the fact that slave or woman was dependent on him for such well-being as he or she had, and therefore was subservient to him - thus ignoring equally with the abortion advocate the fact that another human is affected by his decisions.

In case you have not yet noticed where I am going with this, let me state my thesis plainly: a justification of abortion can logically only be that of the hypothetical justification of the worst excesses of any other time when some people have power over others by accident of culture or nature.  It is nothing more or less than the justification of power: I have power to do this, therefore I may.

* It is an unfortunate fact that it may sometimes be necessary to take measures to save one person's life, measures by which another person must die.  Where the line lies in medical ethics I am not prepared to dispute, but it is obvious that this is not the situation I am addressing.  Exceptions can be made to a negative: it is very difficult indeed to make exceptions to a positive, as the legal strategists trying to limit abortions bit by bit have found.


Freedom, Generally

In a previous post, I suggested that there is no particular logical justification for a particularized freedom of religion.  It would be possible to extrapolate from that opinion that in fact I do not have any concern for liberty at all, that I am willing to sacrifice even the principle of my own freedom for the ability to restrict someone else.  (And this, in fact, is something that has been suggested by others across the nation in light of the recent HHS mandate requiring even religious employers to provide birth control of various sorts against their will: it has been implied or outright stated that those who object are willingly trying to damage women's liberty.)  But that is not an argument I would ever be going to advance.    Though there I went as far as to say I am not sure I like the particular wording in the amendment, it is not the securing of the freedom I object to, but to the idea it has propagated that religious freedom is somehow unique.  The appropriate corollary is that religious liberty is just one of many liberties, and deserves not special protection, but the general protection of all freedom.

This is, unsurprisingly, attested to by the Constitution.  I previously cited the first amendment, which out of context presents requirements apparently paradoxically at odds with the rule of law, namely an idea that religion deserves some special protection.  However, in context and especially considering the tenth amendment there is no paradox, but rather a liberty specially named because of historical (and, at the time of America's founding, ongoing) assaults on that liberty.  That tenth amendment says,
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The ninth amendment similarly makes the point that rights - that is, liberties - are more general than enumerated solely in the Constitution: that, in general, the government does not have the right to disestablish our natural or human rights.  I am on the side which believes that this indicates that governments - especially our constitutional one with its explicitly stated limits - should impose as few restrictions as possible.

It is not a coincidence that today the religious groups who are protesting that their rights are being violated by this new executive mandate are in general on the same side of politics which has been protesting for years that commercial and civil liberties have been violated: by excessive taxation, prejudicial government policies, oppressive regulations, and the like.  It is, contrastingly, one of the great modern ironies that the so-called "liberal" politics in the United States have been resoundingly on the side of taxation, government control, and regulation.

In respect to the case most pressingly at hand, the churches should be free to pay or not pay for whatever they like, not simply because they are churches but because they, like the rest of us, should be free.  It is one thing to pass a law saying that insurance may be provided for contraceptives.  (Let us assume for the sake of argument that we are not going to be as restrictive as Catholic guidelines morally, but also that by contraceptives I do not mean the clearly immoral abortifacients.)  It is quite another to pass a law demanding that insurance must be provided for the same contraceptives.  The former clarifies (or, depending on the previous law, establishes) a liberty; the latter imposes restrictions and demands.  It would be one thing to author a law permitting alcohol to be sold by any purveyor of foods, without any special license; it would be something else entirely to demand that all grocery and convenience stores stock alcohol - not least because in our modern legislative climate the bill would probably be three hundred pages detailing what ratios of stock of different liquors must be had and imposing fines for stocking the wrong things.  (To go back to the general point at hand, for that matter, it is one thing to allow any insurance to be bought corporately (as opposed to individually, which in fact is how some insurance must now be purchased); it is something different and abusive of liberty to demand that corporations must purchase or provide employee insurance - the employer (who is also a person with his own freedoms) has his liberty restricted by such a law.)

All this is clear if our liberty is the greatest political good, an opinion which was fairly clearly the driving force behind the American founding, most especially in the Declaration and attendant publications from the Revolution.  Whether or not that remains tenable I will address in the next installment.


The Awful English Language

So over on a Michigan sports blog I read, a writer used the clause, "...and it very didn't work."  I don't want to talk about the part where that's terrible English, grammatically speaking.  I want to point out the fact that it makes sense.  Not only that, not only do we understand exactly what it means, the fact is English is flexible enough that - once the grammar nazis like me get over the incorrectness of it all - it barely sounds odd.  You could make a somewhat plausible argument, in fact, that this linguistic atrocity has a connotation otherwise unobtainable with a correct construction like "...didn't work at all."  The use of the "very" adds a punch, an almost active not-working, to our idea of what happened.  It is a phrase one could use, say, of bureaucratic excess or some of the goofier stunts attempted by the proverbial frat boys.

Of course, I'm still a linguistic snob at heart.  If I saw that construction used, outside dialogue, in anything more high-falutin' than a newspaper editorial, I'd have a panic attack.  But since it was just a blog post... hey, I can admire the rhetorical effect.


Shooting the Messenger

The other day over on FOX, one of their talking heads complained about the military not preparing realistically for putting women in combat - namely, not predicting a huge increase in sexual abuse.  She went on to emphasize the absurdity of a growing sector in the armed forces dedicated to dealing with these crimes.  Her implication, of course, was that sending women into combat was a bad idea, an argument at least speculatively supported by the cited data.

Or at least, that's how I would have summarized what Liz Trotta said.  Here's the text over at Media Matters.  To MM's credit, it's presented with little comment - though no doubt they expect their (what I believe to be a fairly liberal) reader base to draw certain conclusions about Trotta's reliability, not to say stability and sanity.  Still, a decent piece of reporting in the grand tradition of "X said Y".

The hatchet work happened elsewhere, for instance on Think Progress, whose headline misquoted  and misinterpreted Trotta's opinion: "FOX Pundit Says Women In The Military Should 'Expect' To be Raped".  Except for the word "expect", that's made up out of whole cloth: the transcript clearly indicates Trotta was addressing not soldiers but their commanders - one is tempted in this case to say managers, or mismanagers.  Not only that, but because Trotta used the phrase "women... being raped too much," the column says we can assume she thinks some rape is acceptable.  Instead of assuming, oh, I don't know, that we don't always have perfect control over conveying the exact desired connotation and obviously rape is bad and we all know it.

It's true, of course, that Trotta presents her case in a very "right wing" manner: complaints about undue "feminist" influence, gripes about bureaucracy, a little mindless patter about the military.  But this reaction - and from what I've seen TP's is the one echoed by most on the left - is not a rational one.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that Trotta was actually dead wrong on everything she said.  She quoted some statistics - but we all know what they say about damned lies.  She seems to have a logical hypothesis: putting people together in high-stress situations will likely increase crimes, and putting men and women together will especially increase sexual ones.  But suppose the data doesn't support that conclusion.

Prove it.  Don't sully the character of someone just because they disagree with you.  Don't take the least favorable interpretation possible just to try to hide any point they might have.

And if she did have a point?  Which, as I mentioned above, it seems she might - then you not only look childish, you put yourself further in the wrong by refusing to examine your own views.  If Trotta is right - if we can directly connect the incidents of women in combat with a rise in crime, than you're being criminally ignorant yourself by waving it off with mendacities about the reporter who brought the news.  Isn't the goal, after all, of anyone reputable in a position of authority to protect these women, like all other citizens?

Sure, it might demand actions that conflict with your own theories, your own expectations.  (Maybe - the horror! - putting women in the military indiscriminately is a bad idea.)  But in that case, isn't the correct thing to do to revise your estimates?  To alter your preconceptions, as much as you can, to fit reality?


The First Amendment and the Religious Exception

The idea of a "religious exception", as commonly defended, is both heart-warmingly humane and oddly indefensible.  That citizens not be forced to do things they consider immoral seems like the most straight-forward common sense; that citizens be allowed to ignore the law of the land for any consideration is a legal absurdity.
In the United States' tradition, the most relevant article to cite is the first amendment to the Constitution, which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
 Two things are most straightforwardly guaranteed here: in the first case that the Congress on the United States shall not proclaim any one religion, sect, or cult to be an official or favored one.  So far we have done a fairly good job on this score, and perhaps even gone overboard to the point of denigrating all religious considerations in political decision-making.

The second clause, though, causes more difficulty.  (It is worth noting in passing that the general reading of these amendments, while they bind Congress specifically, has included the other branches of government, Congress having been specially limited as the branch which set policy.)  We can quickly recognize that it has in fact not been consistently followed.  Until very recently, the most infamous clear violation of this principle would be the persecution and de facto outlawry which followed the early Mormons largely on account of their practice of polygamy.

This exposes the potential problem: if a country, collectively speaking, truly believes some action to be wrong - in a more modern context, we might cite the draft (or, I suppose, draft-dodging), or segregation - at what point do we say, "Enough is enough?"  The hard-line libertarian answer - allow everything! - is absurd.  Not only would it be rejected by almost any populace, even the proponent of the idea would not want to extend it to some things - a religion- or culture-driven "honor killing", for example.  And his objection would not necessarily be the death (if it were of, say, an already criminal murderer or rapist), but the essential lawlessness of the act, especially if the victim objected to the code (as we can all imagine most would).

In the current state of politics, when this principle is being challenged on a matter of life or death - contraception and abortion - I have to admit I am glad the law, interpretation, and precedent exist and stand mainly on the side I favor.  But in the long term, this seems an uneasy and impractical compromise.  There is a part of me that would be more comfortable without the exception, without that second clause and its interpretations, even if the result were to be requiring civil disobedience - which seems often the best way to change laws.


Why It is Reasonable to Vote Single-Issue With Regards to Abortion

This started as a reply to a discussion on facebook - the blog post may not get much wider attention, but the numbers I looked up to make my point shocked me.  An amalgamation of the best sources I can find suggest that, as a minimum estimate, there are 600,000 abortions in the US each year.  These "best sources" are, in the interest of full disclosure, mostly pro-life organizations, verified by Wikipedia.  Oddly (or not), pro-abortion lobbies seem extremely reluctant to talk about the actual numbers, occasionally mentioning "abortions per 1000 pregnancies" or similar statistics, but almost never admitting the sheer enormity of that six-digit number.  And in fact, the data that is presented suggests the number is closer to 800,000 - but I'm willing to guess low to make a point.

That point is this: If abortion were outlawed tomorrow, I think we can assume that no more than half that number of abortions would continue.  I suspect it would be even fewer than half, but I'm willing to say, for the sake of argument, that half of the women getting abortions want it enough to go through an illegal procedure.  That means we instantly save hundreds of thousands of lives: even if we assume that of the 300,000 babies no longer aborted, another half of them die due to natural causes  - miscarriages, still births, etc. - we're still looking at 150,000 lives saved per year.

If you could suggest any other policy change that would even begin to approach the positive effect of outlawing abortion, maybe I - and the thousands of other voters and citizens for whom abortion is the most important issue facing us - would think about changing our priorities.