Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Issue: Abortion (Updated)

The issue of abortion deeply divides our country, perhaps more profoundly than any other. At present, our law on abortion is defined not by Congress or state legislatures but by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In acknowledging "the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy," the Court stated, awkwardly:

One's philosophy, one's experiences, one's exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one's religious training, one's attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one's thinking and conclusions about abortion.

Roe v. Wade, which many legal scholars consider flawed, is founded on a limited derivative "right of privacy" even though, as the Court stated, "the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy." After a long and somewhat irrelevant discourse on the history of abortion since Persian, Greek, and Roman times and the evolution of common law on abortion, the Court said:

We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.

The decision, as summarized in Section XI of Roe v. Wade, left us with the current trimester system of dealing with abortion. During the first trimester, abortion must essentially be available on demand. In later stages of pregnancy, states may regulate or even prohibit abortion, "except where it is necessary...for the preservation of the life or health of the mother."

Those who oppose this legal construct argue that Roe v. Wade should be overruled by the Court or overcome through an act of Congress either making new law or limiting the Court's jurisdiction. Of course, supporters of women's freedom to choose abortion would leave Roe v. Wade in place. From a purely constitutional standpoint, issues like this belong to state legislatures, but neither side will support that approach because, in one way or another, it doesn't permit them to achieve total victory.

I understand arguments on both sides of the question when they are based on reason and common sense. What I can't abide is the hypocrisy, extremism, and downright silliness of positions taken by some zealots. Just a few examples:

How can any rational person seriously argue that a minor who can't get her teeth cleaned without parental permission should be able to have an abortion without her parents consenting or even being notified? The defense offered is that the pregnancy may be the result of incest. In those limited number of cases, there are various provisions for state involvement in order to protect the child.

If you're confident enough to take a position on when life begins, then your position on abortion should be settled. An abortion performed after life begins is murder, and nothing, to include the health of the mother, justifies it. You can't have it both ways. If, for example, you profess to be Catholic, you claim to believe that life begins at conception, and you're "pro-choice," then you're a hypocrite (think of John Kerry).

If you believe that men should have no voice in this debate, then you misunderstand the fundamentals of democracy, in which all are guided by the majority. And certainly on questions that involve life itself, all citizens must have a voice.

Personally, I don't know exactly when life begins. I do believe that life exists when a baby has been partially delivered. If at that point it is killed and dismembered, that's murder. I also know that if abortion is completely outlawed, abortions will still be performed one way or another. Without a legally available and safe medical alternative, at least during the early months, untold numbers of girls and women will suffer greatly and many will die. Somewhere between those extremes, there has to be room for compromise.

Roe v. Wade is a bad decision in constitutional terms, in that it invents law in order to impose the normative views of a few judges on all the states. But what's the alternative? Congress simply doesn't have the political backbone to deal with the issue. If it were left to the states, we'd have a dysfunctional patchwork of laws resulting in people driving back and forth across state borders to have abortions, much as they do now to buy guns. So, at least for the time being, we should leave it alone and live with Roe v. Wade. It's the least bad of the available choices.

I guess that means I have to be "pro-choice," but by the barest of margins, and reluctantly.


Richard Cohen's column in the Washington Post on December 14, 2004 is worth reading. He wrote:

Over the decades my views on abortion have evolved. I'm still pro-choice, but I no longer see the issue as solely about women's rights or sexual freedom. It is more complex -- freighted always with the phrase "it depends" and tinged with regret: Something has gone wrong and something difficult has to be done about it. An abortion is not a mere exercise of a right like voting. It is more complicated than that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good entry. i totally agree.

Mrs darling

9:01 PM, December 07, 2004  
Blogger Mrs. Darling said...

This time blogger let me actuall sign in! Lol. Anyway thanks for the compliment on my site. Come on over and get to know me. I have a lot of neat people that comment over there.

10:27 PM, December 07, 2004  
Blogger Gindy said...

Great post. It is a states rights issue. California will have abortion on demand (to my dismay) and Texas may outlaw it all together. The constitution is clear on this issue.

11:55 PM, December 07, 2004  
Blogger Gindy said...

One more comment. I just happened to see this. It is on the topic of your post.


12:37 AM, December 08, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cindy is right that it is a state's rights issue. Roe v. Wade said that the right to privacy outweighs a state's right to pass laws to regulate practices in their own state. This would clearly become a Red State versus Blue state thing with some states having abortion on demand for 13 year old girls without parental consent and others outlawing it completely. So what if a girl has to travel across state lines to get an abortion? It acts as a defacto parental notification and also as a deterent.

"Hey Mom, can I go to California this weekend?" is a lot easier to figure out and discuss than "Hey Mom, can I go to the library right by Planned Parenthood of Des Moines?"

It also gives parents choices of what kind of environment they want their kids to live in. Parents that want their kids to have abortion on demand can live in Mass or NY. But it protects the rest of us from that environment. And Adults can go anywhere they want and live anywhere they want.

1:27 AM, January 27, 2005  
Blogger B said...

This is a tough issue, and I can't completely divorce myself from the issue of a woman's control over her body. If I had my way, they would be permissible through the first trimester and thereafter heavily (heavily) regulated. Given the deaths that would occur with an outright ban (killing both the mother and child) I can't see that as helping the situation. Even when they were illegal doctors routinely signed medical necessity waivers - whether or not there was one.

In a sense, you can understand their position in doing so. Preventing the death of the mother at the hands of a butcher is arguably a medical necessity. Ken Grandlund sparked a thoughtful and interesting discourse on the topic where the comments were extensive.

I think the part about it that bothers me the most is the irresponsible attitude that a woman has the right to as many elective abortions as she wishes. If a woman really wants control over her body, would it not behoove her to prevent the pregnancy in the first place? It's symbolic, I think, of our descent into blaming society for our own recklessness.

One of the aspects to this that never seems to be discussed is the impact on the physician who is required to perform the procedure. Later-term abortions must be terrible to perform. Unwanted pregnancy is a fact of life and there are legitimate reasons why a woman would need to terminate it. Regardless, she wouldn't dream of showing up two months late to vote in an election - or ask to vote again when she changed her mind. At the very least she should be expected to act as responsibly when the stakes are that much higher.

1:38 AM, February 23, 2005  
Anonymous Lt. Gen. Funabashi said...

It's pretty simple to answer: abortion is to kill a human being.


Doesn't sound as nice?

Why don't you talk about it as it really is? Killing! You are against killing, right?

You cross-reference this abortion issue with some idea that people cross state boundaries to legally purchase firearms, when to do so is a federal crime, clear and simple. It is 100% illegal in every state to sell a firearm directly to a person who is not a resident of that state. So, if I go to Nevada and want to buy a firearm to take back to California, 100% of all FFL (Federal Firearms Licence) holders (gun shops or other legal dealers) will tell me to take a hike. The only way to lawfully purchase a firearm in a non-resident state is to arrange for the transfer to be conducted between 2 FFL holders. This is pretty much the same as importing livestock, selling cars, or a large variety of other goods interstate.

Before you compare abortion with firearms, I suggest that you familiarize yourself more with firearms laws. Resources are available on Funabashing.

To take your argument to an absurd end, you would be saying that the fetal tissue is a product that can be sold, and therefore taxed, which gives government authority to regulate it?

Have you tried to sell some foetus on E-Bay?

Is. 49:1

6:08 AM, February 27, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Lt. Gen. Funabashi: Thanks for the comment, sir. I understand and appreciate your opinion. I'll leave it to you to take my argument "to an absurd end." I don't do that.

By the way, Isaiah 49:1 reads: "Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples. The LORD called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name." What does that have to do with your comment? Just curious.

10:18 AM, February 27, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Issues like abortion illustrate how
the women's liberation movement and sexual revolution went sadly awry. As a young teen in the mid '70's I possessed and respected
an education in all manners of birth control.
When I was fortunate enough to bear my daughter and see her dance inside me via a sonagram a mere eight weeks after conception, there
was no doubt in my mind or heart as to her life and humanity-she was there.

Choose responsibility.

11:49 PM, June 11, 2005  
Blogger Anastasia said...

First I’d like to say that abortion is one of the most unpleasant experiences a woman will experience, and there is a reason I say this but I don‘t want to get into it. But it also depends on a woman’s priors, her psychology and her own values. If her personal values are superficial, it doesn’t really matter, there are many women who use abortion as a contraceptive measure when there are so many contraceptive alternatives out there and if they took the time to educate themselves or consider (in situations where children are not a part of the relationship plan at a particular time, for whatever reason) a male’s opinion they wouldn’t arrive to unwanted pregnancy 95% of the time (error percentage of some contraceptives).

I remember a case a few years ago in the US I read about (You may all remember it), but I don’t remember the man’s name, but he was ordered to pay child support when a woman, using the ‘it’s my body and my right to reproduce’ excuse after he (allegedly) specified early in the relationship that he did not want to have children, went ahead with the pregnancy. She assured him (according to him) that she was on the Pill, however she decided to stop using the Pill. Does a male have the right, in such circumstances, to take a woman to court and obtain a court order for her to have an abortion or for her to have the child adopted out? Why, no he doesn’t, he is lumbered with paying childhood until the child reaches late adolescence (I’m not sure what the law on Child Support is in the US, but here in Australia Child Support is paid until the child is 16). As a female, yes I believe a woman has the right to her sexuality, but she doesn’t have the right to deceive the other party into having a child and then expecting the other party (the father) to pay child support. There have been many cases here where women have demanded child support after separation, because our system of Child Support in Australia is shoddy (it’s managed by the Aust. Taxation Department and Social Security/Centrelink) a male is just another ‘number’. There have been many men that have experienced nervous breakdowns, committed suicide and so on because of these matters and as a 34 year old woman, this may be offensive to feminists out there, I find that feminism (the feminist zealots) hasn’t really served the heterosexual relationship or the family unit. When female feminists (because there are male feminists out there as well) deride males and categorize them as a sub-species of human (in a serious manner, and take this further), how is a family unit supposed to function or germinate? How are generations of women supposed to balance the ‘anti-male’ zealotry with their everyday relationships (with males) when they are bombarded with rubbish each day?

So the last two or so decades, has gradually chipped away at females. We have female mass media, print magazines, that offer views that are totally contradictory yet are considered to be feminist (what a crock). One month one will pick up a big name periodical and read about how it’s perfectly okay to treat oneself as a sex object to ‘Turn on their Man or Have that One Night Stand’ and a couple of months after there’ll be an article on how ‘One Night Stands are Degrading or Empty’. It’s more healthier to read the articles in Playboy Magazine in comparison or view a pictorial, because a naked pictorial doesn’t emote political views or double standards, it’s only a picture of a naked woman however feminists have singled out such imagery as well and yet they will proclaim that it’s mighty fine for a female to reflect the values of four neurotic women in Sex in the City. Can’t have it a variety of ways and expect logic.

When the tools are lacking, when people have difficulty in being ‘real’ about their sexual relationships (everything from the emotional level, to the chance of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases) they somehow wind up in a place and there is one solution (in their mind). It can be said that if we lived in an ideal society, where all child care was ‘equal’, abortion wouldn’t be necessary. Here, for example, a single woman paying for child-care for a small child has to pay something like AUD 40 a day, per day, for childcare if she works. Because the waiting lists are extensive, unless she puts her name down for a childcare place two years prior to that child being born it’s really unlikely for her to obtain childcare so she can work. A double edged sword presents itself. If she doesn’t have financial help (from parents, has family etc) then she’ll have to rely on Social Security, which doesn’t provide much, and she’ll have to wait a few years before she enters the workforce (and that’s difficult if one takes a couple of years off to look after their child full time). In one way, our society doesn’t cater for women in this manner, so what is the other alternative when a woman’s emotional/psychological wellbeing is affected?

It’s easy for some to say that Social Security is there, but in some cases a pregnancy can occur without a woman ‘sneakily’ planning for it (contraception failure, illness during the Pill that can affect the Pill’s potency etc). There is no such thing as Tabula Rasa, this concept of a small child being an effective blank slate is phoney. A child is perceptive, and it’s important parents give a child a balanced start to life and children pick up on the smallest things, but adults don’t see this until much later in the piece. Just as IVF is considered a necessary technology in our society, abortion is also a necessary procedure but not from a sexual or feminist stand point, not as a political tool. I think men need to have a say in the matter as well because when one ‘half shareholder’ is excluded from the decisions that are made, they are effectively ignored and treated as subhuman. At the same time, governments also have to provide some support to those who decide to have children as well by providing some infrastructures that enable these people to continue their education, and/or work in order to provide for these children. There is no use stripping a father down to the bare necessities (through inane Child Support Schemes who don’t treat a father as a human being, in some cases - many here in Australia.) for them to have nothing to look forward to.

As for Catholics and so on who brand women murderers (those who don’t have many choices but to opt for abortion), I realize they see it from their ‘side’ but for me, as someone who has studied embryology in college, a ‘baby’ in the first trimester isn’t an individual in the way that a fully formed baby is an individual. The foetus cannot form psychological schemas or complex emotions. The most popular ‘Right to Life’ mechanism of the ‘screaming foetus’ video is pretty much like any ‘response’ from a biological form of life in it’s primitive stages. It’s not an ‘emotional’ cry, it’s a biological response without any emotion (in the sense of sentiment, memory and so on). As for the Right to Life Movement, I have no sympathy for them. In fact I loathe them because I’ve had a direct run in with these people many years ago. These people don’t care about the millions of fully formed babies who die in developing countries each year due to malnutrition, lack of vaccinations, little clean water and so on, but they’ll stand outside an abortion clinic waving their placards. No one sees them waving placards about these children and they’re so ‘Christian’, one would think their values were ‘universal’.
They don’t stop to ask whether the female if she is psychologically ‘ready’ (being sexually ready and psychologically ready are two different things) or whether or not she has experienced incest or rape, to them she is a plain ‘murderer’ of a foetus that isn’t a fully formed human being (within the first trimester) and I say this because the ‘mind’, the actual brain isn’t nowhere near fully formed for the foetus to respond to anything like a fully formed human being. It’s angered me to see these types of zealots murder doctors in cold blood and how they equate this with abortion, yet they probably prefer a woman to use a trusty coat hanger. They think that a woman will ‘have’ the baby if she’s forced to have it. How do they know? To me, Right to Life, are hypocrites on a grand scale.

The only time abortion is acceptable, after the first trimester, is when there is a high danger present. Apart from that, no and that’s due to the psychological upheaval for all parties, including the foetus after that first trimester.

No, I think that if our societies was geared to solve this problem they could. Abortion doesn’t have to be the option however as long as governments maintain the same stance they do (few childcare places, limited educational programs after children are born etc etc), abortion will continue. There is more emphasis, for adolescents, on porn than anything else. Real sexual eduction ‘lacks’ in schools and sex is still seen as a taboo subject but if people don’t educate themselves on these matters then what tools do they have before they enter relationships? The same can be said about personal development. The thing is this, if people are having children (when they aren’t psychologically equipped to have them) what are they going to teach these children? It will be a continual cycle unless balanced educational programs are made available.
Our society, at present, is once again in the throes of another sexual revolution and I’m surprised that this has occurred after HIV made it’s presence. Sex is more prevalent now, it’s insinuated on late night television adverts that sell sex calls, services and so on. Ten years ago here, there was no such thing as adult classifieds in ‘usual’ morning papers (adverts for escorts, ‘massage’ and so on) but now, we’ve got pages of adult classifieds in the normal morning papers. One opens up their email and there are many services posing as ‘dating services’ that are used for other purposes. Pornography has made the transition onto the web. All these offer astronomical profits, reach many more audiences than ever before.

10:08 AM, July 01, 2005  

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