maarmie's musings

Friday, April 14, 2006

Abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion abortion

I don't believe in a woman's "right to choose" or that a woman should be granted the choice to be "pro-choice." I believe in a woman's right to an abortion, that abortion should be legal and that women should have complete access to them.

I'm so tired of seeing the notion of an abortion - a scary, sad, horrific, traumatizing and painful experience - wrapped up in silly pretty words in an attempt to try and make it more palatable to more people. It doesn't make abortion more palatable to those who want to see it criminalized, to those who want to see the day where women who have them - and the doctors who perform them - are tossed in jail for between 5 and 50 years like they currently are in El Salvador - a backwards Catholic-dominated place where abortion is illegal in every case, where the government would rather that women suffer with perforated uteruses and life-draining infections, where women who have terminated unwanted prenancies live in constant fear of being found out and jailed and where the doctors who illegally help them live a constant lie.

But we don't have to go very far to see women and doctors who have and perform abortions treated as criminals, as animals who deserve nothing better than to die and burn forever in hell. We need only look as far as our own towns and cities. Abortion may be legal here, but it's going black market whether we like it or not.

Eight years ago, Jack Hitt, contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, wrote an article on the status of abortion in the United States. What he found almost a decade ago was that the number of medical schools requiring some kind of course or lecture on abortion was in rapid decline (according to the article, only 12 percent of hospital residency programs routinely taught abortion in 1991) and that the number of doctors willing and able to perform them had drastically shrunk. In 1995, Hitt said, only 33 percent of OB-GYNs were willing to perform the procedure and that only 15 percent of chief residents doing family practice had any experience with the simplest abortion procedure.

According to the article, doctors don't want to perform the procedure for two main reasons. The first is that they value their lives. The second is that abortion providers are routinely thought of as the red-headed stepchildren in the medical world.

New doctors simply don't want to learn about and provide a procedure that, while extremely unpleasant, saves the lives of women who are going to terminate the pregnancy whether the procedure is legal or not. They don't want to learn about and provide a procedure that, while extremely unpleasant, saves the world from another unwanted child who will likely be improperly cared for only to possibly become a burden to society. They don't want to learn about and provide a procedure that, while extremely unpleasant, saves unwanted children the burden of being unloved. To do so would alter others' perceptions of them and make them targets for conservatives who supposedly value life above all else but are willing to take one life in the hopes of saving others. These same people undoubtedly support the death penalty and revel in the United States murdering innocent others in war.

In South Dakota, abortion is now illegal - even in cases of rape and incest. Mississippi is currently attempting to follow in South Dakota's footsteps. Which state will be next? And next? And next? And next?

Would the same narrow-minded individuals who vote for an abortionless world bust a nut (or an ovary, as it were) to pay for the care and education of all the unwanted embryos who are currently scraped from the uteruses of women? If they succeed in their mission, will they be equally as eager to step in to solve the problems of society caused by the birth of children who should never have been? Fat chance, folks! They make the laws. What happens after that is on you and you and you and me. Oh, and you.


palinode said...

Amen. I'm tired of a debate over whether women's lives are more important than the embryos they carry. This should be a no-brainer.

Anonymous said...

I read that article in The NY Times, too, and it helped me understand what was happening systemically to decrease the availability of abortion in America.

Kant said...

No time like the present to beat this abortion issue to death. This one really fires me up.

I can understand why many doctors shy away from this practice. The "compassionate conservatives" (a bullshit term if there ever was one) that make up the fringe lunatic clinic-bombing groups have succeeded in changing the cost-benefit equation for these doctors and the doctors are simply making decisions that maximize their utility. While it is a shame, I blame the lunatic-bombers, not the doctors.

For too long I think the debate about abortion has been incorrectly focused. Frequently the debate comes down to the viability of the fetus, and whether or not the fetus has rights, and so on. While those issues may seem relevant, they are in fact red herrings.

Let us begin with a legal analysis. Simply, the 9th and 13th amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America make regulating abortion off-limits to all levels of government -- including State governments. Now, ordinarily I afford State governments the widest possible latitude because the role of the Feds is supposed to be "sharply limited" with each State shaping its public policy landscape in accordance with the needs and values of its residents. However, the States may not violate the Constitution. I'm going to skip the 9th amendment because honestly, most people don't have the intellictual rigor to understand it. The 13th amendment however should be a little more clear:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

Forcing a woman to allow her body to be used for a purpose she does not wish, is involuntary servitude. If you disagree, let's frame it a little differently. Say your 5 year old child has a newly discovered disease. They will die of this disease if not treated, but if treated, there is a 99.3% chance that they will live a normal, healthy life. But the catch is that the treatment requires the father to agree to undergo certain treatments, for the better part of a year, so his body will make the substance needed to save the child. Only the biological father of the child is compatible with this process. The treatments the father must undergo will result in significant discomfort, restrict the type of activities he may perform, have numerous undersirable temporary side effects, significant permanent side effects, and could actually kill the father.

Given the 99.3% chance of success, some fathers (maybe even many fathers, but I'm not sure of that) would opt to undergo the treatments to save the child. The question is however, can the almighty state force the father to undergo the treatments against his will? The answer of course is that they cannot.

In case the analogy is not strikingly clear, 99.3% is the number of children who survive childbirth (the complement of the infant mortality rate), and the side-effects of the treatments the father would endure are the side-effects of pregnancy. No court in the land could force a person to undergo this process.

In a more simple scenario, can a court force a parent to donate a kidney to a child whose kidneys have failed and is on dialysis? No.

Why? Because your body is about the only thing you absolutely own and the use or modification of it is solely your right to control.

But what about the "children"?

What about them? Even granting the assumption that the fetus has a "right" to life, that does not mean they have a right to the use of the body of their mother (any more than a born child has a right to the use of the body of their father as in the scenario above). If the fetus cannot survive without the body of its mother, that is unfortunate, but does not diminish the rights of the mother. If the State has the technology and the funds to do so, you might argue that the State, to prevent the unnecessary death of the fetus, may have the right to remove the fetus, place it on life support, and, when the fetus is actually a viable human being, place it up for adoption according to customary practice. That notion is one that is mostly tolerable. Assuming that a fetus at any level of development could be "transplanted" and survive in incubation to the point of viability changes the parameters of our analogy.

The new analogy would be that either the father or any other person could undergo the treatment to produce what is needed to save the child's life. In fact, pharmaceutical companies are now paying people to undergo the treatment, extracting the needed byproduct, and selling the cure to hospitals. The father is not willing to undergo the treatment, but the cure is available from another source. Assuming that the cure is affordable and the family has the resources to purchase it, now you may be able to argue that the State can compel the parents to provide it, because providing it does not involve the involuntary use of someone else's body - it is more akin to providing food, water, shelter, and other purchasable commodoties for the child.

I realize that to accept all of this you must first recognize the right for all humans to control their bodies as inviolable. Many cannot do this. You must also be able to put aside the unfortunate side effect of the mother's unwillingness to accept the burden of pregnancy, because the ends (allowing the child to develop and be born) do not and cannot justify the means (the involuntary use of another human being's body).

Before I close, some well-meaning, religious friends of mine once countered the above by saying "if you're not willing to do carry the child, you should not have sex -- if you have sex, knowing that pregnancy is possible, the State can compel you to carry the child". I asked them if the State could use similar logic to prevent a smoker who gets cancer from having an operation to have the cancer removed. After all, the cancer has different DNA than you do, and is dependent upon you for survival. Sure, it might kill you, but, if you didn't want to risk that, you shouldn't have smoked, right? Of course I'm told "that's different".