Great posts everyone... let me just chime in.
First, I agree completely that overcrowding, in both jail and in societies, is a serious problem. Phatferd hit the nail on the head when he said that many jails are overcrowded due to drug offenders who pose no threat to anyone but themselves, or in some cases like with marijuna, not even themselves. Our drug laws are antiquated and the "War on Drugs" is futile. To lock a kid up for having some weed is a great tragedy in our society, as smoking pot is not only relatively harmless, but also is no indication that the user is or will ever be a criminal. Hard drugs like heroin and coke are different monsters altogether... they are dangerous, addictive and destroy lives. They don't, however, make users criminals but rather victims of their addiction.
For example. I heard an interesting story the other day on NPR about OxyCotin, a prescription drug that has opium-like effects and is being abused by about 1 out of 5 teenagers in the country. It is extremely expensive, upwards of $80/pill and is often used by upper class students who use it to show their affluence. It's highly addictive and often leads to heroin addiciton (since it's much cheaper) and ultimately could result in death. This is just a perfect example of how locking people up for using drugs really doesn't deter people. It's all about treatment, education and responsibility. People addicted to hard drugs deserve treatment, not prison sentences. And people who smoke weed, well, i don't smoke it, but I sure as hell don't condone locking someone up who does.
Abortion is a sticky subject, and morality and religion do play huge roles. Most Christian and other faiths wholeheartedly reject abortion as murder, creating a clear black-and-white stance for Americans to take on the subject... my church says it's wrong, therefore it is. And it is, don't get me wrong on that. However, there is a very specific medical reason that abortion is illegal, besides civil rights, and it is a reason that is often not addressed because it is so morbid. Outlawing abortion would greatly lead to an increase in "coat hanger abortions," that is, women and even more dangerously, teenage girls, would perform abortion procedures on themselves in fear of their pregnancy going to term. It is a dangerous proposition, and one of the biggest reasons why in almost every Western societies (about 61% of the world's population), abortion is legal.
Again, it's about responsibility and education. If we teach abstinence-only in our schools and churches, we are setting teenagers up for disaster; whether that be having a child before they are emotionally and financially able, or worse, having an abortion. Abortion is not birth control, but it is seemingly the only viable alternative for some women who grow up in a society where teenage pregnancy is a sin in itself. I am not a woman, so personally I feel as if I shouldn't even have a say in the matter; and it also seems unfair that blow-hard old men want to make the decisions for everyone. But it's a catch 22 to say that having sex before marriage is a sin (how can people honestly still believe that?) and then when someone gets pregnant, to say covering it up is even worse. A lot of girls use abortion as a way to avoid the scorn of their society, their parents, communities; dirty looks of the teenage girl who got "knocked up." If she can get an abortion and avoid all of that, laws and morals aren't going to get in the way.
Curious George stated that 99% of abortions are from stupid 16 year olds who can't keep their legs shut. While that is a common misconception, that is an overgeneralization, as 99% is pretty steep. In fact, 60% of abortions are performed on women who already have one or more children. Only 19% of women who get abortions are teenagers. In addition, there has been a 43% decline in the aboriton rate since the introduction of emergency contraception, or the "morning after" pill which was banned for OTC use by the FDA because of political pressures.
The problem there, as I said, is a lack of education and personal responsiblity. Teenagers are going to have sex no matter how much we try to scare them out of it. When they find themselves pregnant in a world that won't accept their position, they're left with few choices to the contrary. Perhaps if we focused more energy on birth control and responsible sexual behavior, abortion rates would decrease on their own. But living in the religious society that we do... and it is a great disservice to say that religious principles are under attack or going away, because they're not... we find it hard to condone any kind of sexual behavior, even if it could lead to a decrease in teenage pregnancy.
Overwhelmingly though, the vast majority of Americans who are pro-choice only support abortion in cases where it will save the mother's life or in cases of incest and rape. Many Americans take the black and white stance of being pro-life. All of these stances have their merits, but the real world is rarely black and white and neither is the topic of abortion. While it is easy to say that abortion should be illegal, it's also irresponsible. We should try to move our socity to a voluntarily pro-life society... because just like with the issue of drug use, you simply can't legislate people against their own decisions, regardless of how your personal morals come into play.