Laws are a method of social control
Laws are enacted by the legislative organ of a state
Laws are therefore what the legislature thinks is right
Part of what I'm going to say will inevitably seem like needless nitpicking and part of it contains my point, so I want to preface my actual argument with this in hopes that you won't be offended by the statements that I make that aren't relevant and may seem needlessly judicious.
Laws are not always enacted by the legislative organ of a state. In a totalitarian regime they come about by decree or edict, but even in a democracy they can be enacted by ballot initiative that has nothing to do with the legislature. The purpose of a legislature is to enact laws, so the way you're framing the discussion is a little chicken-before-the-egg. In the case of a tyrant, laws as passed that serve his or her whims. Sometimes those whims have an organized philosophy behind them, sometimes they're merely self-serving decrees. Ironically, despite the act that we live in a representative Democracy, the same can be said of the individual legislators as well.
There are many different philosophies that motivate laws, and morality is not necessarily a basis of all of these points of view. I personally do not believe that the purpose of law is to mandate that people follow certain rules -- I feel the entire point of morality is negated if every single moral tenet is enacted into law and people are forced to adhere to them like commandments by governmental power -- in fact I don't think morality has anything to do with just law whatsoever. I am a student of Hobbes.
Without law there is no order, and life becomes an endless series of battles between you and others as you ceaselessly compete for your own selfish interests. In a system of complete anarchy no one wins because we're all too busy screwing each other over. All of the good things about civilization (language, literature, technology) are a result of us agreeing upon a set of ground rules that serve as the basis of cooperation and mediation of conflict. These rules, known as laws, exist to create order wherein mankind can flourish and each individual can pursue their own selfish desires in-as-much as they do not impede on each other's ability to do so.
So, ultimately, I believe the purpose of law is to enshrine and protect the freedom of the individual to determine the course of their own life by limiting the ways that both the cruel circumstances of reality and other human beings can force us to accept outcomes we did not choose by way of force. Obviously everyone does not agree with me.
Thus if a state outlaw abortion or drug use or dwarf tossing it does so in the knowledge that people will continue to have abortions, and that the moral price of accepting abortion is worse than the price of people dying or getting seriously injured.
I agree that's the choice being made at current by most of our elected officials, and it's not all based on religion either. There are plenty of moral philosophies that make it clear that abortion is morally repugnant (and of course there are philosophies that disagree with that sentiment too). Kantian philosophy for example holds that if an action cannot be universalized, then it is not morally right. Put simply, if every woman got an abortion when they became pregnant the human race would cease to exist, thus a strict Kantian could consider abortion immoral on grounds of pure reason (though that's the problem with Kantian ethics -- it's still ultimately subjective).
This is not a value statement, but rather an observation. I personally dislike the attitude; it makes as much sense to me as bombing abortion clinics to save lives. You either have an absolute belief that life is sacred, or you don't.
You can have a belief that life is sacred and still take life. People who bomb abortion clinics do so for the same reason that soldiers go off to war -- not that I'm equating the two. Our soldiers are fighting to protect our liberties and are not misguided in their aims, but the logic used is the same. If you can end one life to save many others, it makes sense.
It's interesting to see that different countries have strongly divergent views on the acceptability of abortion. Different states, different rules. I thought it particularly interesting that former communist countries were much more supportive of the idea apparently - but it's hard to compare the datasets used between the various surveys.
Not really very surprising. Communism came loaded with the idea of atheism in many instances, and atheism rejects the notion of a soul. If you remove the soul from the equation, a fetus really isn't anything special in and of itself. It's a lot harder to make the jump to outlawing abortion when that's in play -- plus communists greater understand scarcity and making tough decisions for their own sake. I'm not surprised that they have a keen understanding and appreciation for abortion.
My concern with the 'but they'll do it anyway' approach is that it doesn't answer the question, but rather sidesteps the debate entirely. Basing choices on the lowest common denominator, on pragmatism, or on the right to privacy resulsts in such awkward and unsatisfactory political quick fixes like Wade v Roe.
I agree. The fact that "they'll do it anyway" is completely irrelevant. If you believe the purpose of law is to enshrine morality and you believe abortion is immoral, then you're not going to be too troubled by a few women accidentally killing themselves in the process of aborting their children -- after all, they were trying to do something morally repugnant in the first place.
The Roe v Wade privacy ruling was very shaky, quite honestly I think it's absolute nonsense. Right to privacy has nothing to do with this issue anymore than it does with any other legal issue pertaining to an individual committing criminal acts. I'm equally annoyed by the "it's my body" argument -- not because it's necessarily false, but it's basically spouting a knee-jerk talking point that often seems completely void of any nuance or actual thought.
However, analyzing the situation from my perspective on law, I think it's pretty clear that abortion should be legal. In prohibiting it, the government would be requiring women to carry children to term that they do not want. That is, quite clearly, forcing them to accept a certain existence for nine months of their life that they may not want. This is not done to protect the interests of another human being ultimately, there is no human in the equation, just a bundle of cells that could eventually be a human.
Now, if you want to treat the fetus like a human being, then lets do so. Imagine a human being approached a woman and latched onto her, refusing to let go. Lets say this person demands nourishment, a safe environment in which to stay, and in doing so hurt the complete stranger that they chose to essentially kidnap. We, as a society, would not tolerate their behavior, even if for some reason the only way that person could survive is by controlling the life of a complete stranger for nine months. Why should fetuses, that aren't even human, be given special treatment?
You can argue that the person brought it on themself by having sex, and it's true that they opened themself up for pregnancy that way, but you open yourself up for a car accident by getting into your vehicle everyday, fully knowing it could happen, and we still don't tell people: "You were in a car accident? Well, deal with it. You knew the risks." The comparison is doubly apt because living in our society without a car is difficult, and resisting the temptations of sex is even harder (especially for the younger generations) -- we're wired to fuck against any and all rational impulses.