Forty years ago today, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade that abortion is a fundamental right. I don't solely consider myself anti-abortion, but go beyond the political usage of the term "pro-life" and consider myself a "bona fide" pro-lifer. When I sit and think about the court ruling at this juncture of my life, I realize that I no longer toe the "life begins as conception" line. I've thought about what we would do if we extended full personhood all the way to the beginning of the first trimester, and from a policy standpoint, it's messy and undesirable. I believe that a fetus, especially after the seven-week point of gestation in which all of the vital organs are formed, should have some legal protections. However, it would be nowhere as simple as drawing the line at conception or birth, which would make enforcement even more complicated than the simple blanket prohibition that many social conservatives would want.
I think about how the Burger court made this ruling based on Griswold v. Connecticut, which gave the "right to privacy" to own and use contraception via the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. The ruling was primarily a proverbial middle finger to the Tenth Amendment, which if actually taken into consideration, would have kept the issue of abortion an issue on the state level and not have been shlepped to the federal court for adjudication. Also, I have moral qualms with extending a "right to privacy" to Roe v. Wade because at least with contraception, there isn't an additional party involved. In the case of abortion, there is another life involved. The Court decision talks about "potentiality of life." If the fetus were merely a tumor or a clump of cells, I would agree with my "pro-choice" friends and call it a day. The issue is that technology has caught up and has informed us that the human life of a fetus is more than mere potentiality. Certainly from a philosophical libertarian view, I would contend that the issue cannot be reduced to "my body, my choice."
Public opinion polls aren't much help since they indicate that the issue is still a highly contentious one (see Gallup and Pew) with the battle between choice/reproductive rights and protection of life. Public polls notwithstanding, I don't see Roe v. Wade being overturned unless you a 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, which wouldn't happen anytime sooner than 2017. States can pass some laws restricting abortions, but that won't stop Roe v. Wade from being the "law of the land."
I'll assume that the Left believes their "abortions should be safe, legal, and rare" one-liner, which would mean they can have the discussion of "how do we continue the declining trend of abortions?" Given the public poll trends, I don't think there is much that the government can do, which means that this would need to be mitigated in the private sector. Contraception is a great place to start, since it has been shown to dramatically decrease the abortion rate. Since teenagers are having sex anyways (thinking that they never did signals a certain naïveté), let's at least keep them informed of their decisions and make sure they can minimize unintended consequences. If this is an issue of "we've cheapened the value of life," like social conservatives opine, then abortion is, at best, a symptom of the counterculture movement that brought about the hyper-individualism (read: societal egocentrism). Although there is no simple solution to counter that, it would certainly entail a bottom-up, decentralized approach in which communities have more influence in an individual's life, and a sensible balance between the individual and community can be struck. I would also focus on various community-building efforts so that adoption can be a viable alternative to abortion, which can be complicated by familial or communal stigma. Bottom-up approaches are more difficult to conceptualize because it takes many individuals working towards a common goal. They might be riddled with obstacles, but I have hope that we can look forward to a future with a significantly lower abortion rate.