Instead of Abortions, Allow Women to Auction Their Fetuses

In Virginia, a controversial bill requiring a woman undergo an ultrasound before an abortion was dropped in the state senate, but state legislators still expect to pass a bill mandating abdominal ultrasounds and other requirements for women seeking abortions. Moreover, regulations on contraception in private Catholic hospitals, while primarily an issue of religious freedom, have brought abortion back into media headlines.

Despite all of the controversy surrounding abortion, it is one of the few policy areas where there is agreement on a desired outcome. Both pro-choice and pro-life activists want there to be fewer abortions. While the pro-choice movement tries to reach this desired outcome with education on birth control and accurate sex education, the pro-life movement works to achieve an abortion-free America through legislative measures that would make abortions either prohibitively difficult to perform or undergo or illegal altogether. Yet, there is a way to reduce the number of abortions without adopting either of these strategies. The U.S. should allow for the auctioning of adoption rights.

Allowing pregnant women to auction the adoption rights to their unborn child would have a number of beneficial effects. It would please both the pro-life and pro-choice lobbies, as it would save some unborn children that would otherwise have been aborted, and it fits with a popular pro-choice argument, namely that a woman should be allowed to do what she wishes with her own body. As well as being agreeable to both sides of the abortion debate, the auctioning of adoption rights would help expand the market for couples looking to adopt children.

Some might object to this proposal because it might encourage some women to get pregnant in order to gain financially. While I am dubious as to how prolific this sort of activity might become I have to admit that I see nothing morally objectionable to women auctioning adoption rights. If you are pro-life I find it hard to see why you might prefer an infant to be killed than being raised by parents who won a bid. It is socially acceptable for athletes to have a market price for their bodies and I cannot see why women should not be allowed to compete for potential parents of their children.

Whatever one thinks about the Roe v. Wade decision, it seems clear that any attempt pro-lifers make to implement their agenda through the courts will end as a disappointment. The pro-life movement needs to start proposing incentives for pregnant women to not get abortions that move beyond the moral arguments. The recent bill in Virginia shows how desperate and absurd some pro-life legislative projects are.

America must come to grips with an abortion policy that moves the rhetoric surrounding the debate from the militant and uncompromising pro-choice and pro-life camps. At current rates one in 10 women will have an abortion by the age of 20. An issue that affects millions of Americans deserves some admittedly unorthodox proposals. I am not optimistic that proposals like this will be seriously considered, but I do hope that legislators will begin to think outside of the box the pro-choice and pro-life movement have constructed around abortion. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Matthew Feeney

Anglo-American currently working as Assistant Editor of Reason 24/7 at Reason.com. Before coming to DC I worked in London at the Institute of Economic Affairs and at the headquarters of the Liberal Democrats. I write mostly on economics, civil liberties, and foreign affairs.

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