Thursday, October 23, 2008

A woman's right to Chose and Abortions

As a liberal, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I support a woman's right to chose. I reject the argument that life begins at conception. I believe that life begins at birth. Bill Clinton expressed it as clearly as anyone. Abortion should be Safe, Rare, and Legal.

This one one of the few positions that I hold where I am an absolutist. The decision to carry the child to term or have an abortion is the mother's and hers alone.

I understand and respect the Alan Keyes of the world who have an equally uncompromising position on the other side. If, as many believe, life begins at conception, the abortion is the deliberate taking of a human life. That is the definition of murder. Alan Keyes was clear and unequivocal on this in his 2000 quest for the Republican Presidential nomination.

I have no respect for those who try to finesse this issue. This occurs more in Republican ranks than in Democratic ranks, but both sides are trying to keep their head down on this.

The current debate about Partial Birth abortion is an example of the insanity of this debate. Abortion opponents want to ban a specific procedure without regard to any concept of medical necessity, without regard for any threat to the life of the mother and without any regard for any threat to the health of the mother. All of this over a procedure that is used in less than .2% of abortions ( and is usually performed on a non-viable fetus. The majority of states already ban abortions after presumed viability (usually defined as 24 weeks) in most cases, the use of the Partial Birth Abortion procedure is already prohibited in cases where the fetus might be viable.

I am not going to argue whether or not women chose to have abortions for capricious reasons or for intensely difficult reasons. That isn't the point. We as a society don't get to tell a woman that her reasons are good enough or they are not. That's above our pay grade.

I don't see enough people trying to get Abortion opponents to explain how they can believe that life begins at conception, and not believe that the mother who solicits for the murder of her unborn child is not as guilty as the doctor. Even more so. But they don't want to be seen as extremists. So they take a position that is logically indefensible and pretend it makes sense.

I also find it fascinating the the same people who find abortion to be abhorrent are also opposed to many of the ways that might make unplanned pregnancies less common and reduce any perceived need for abortion.

Though there are few absolutists on this issue, I have no respect for any position in the middle ground.


Matty said...

I already took a screen shot of this one, just in case it "disappears."

I am hearing you correctly that my big lib uncle has more respect for extremists than those who have an opinion and yet are willing to engage in process rather than shout from the sidelines..... ok, just making sure I heard you correctly.

Seriously, you believe that life begins at birth? By that rational, at their respective due dates, my son was not a person while (luckily for her) Joy's little Padraig was. Cam was 10 days late and Paddy was around a week early. I think that is probably one of the least defensible notions I have ever heard.

Also, I have not been shown anything that convinces me that partial birth abortions are EVER necessary for the life/health of a mother. Let's be clear.... this procedure still involves the complete birth of the baby's body - it's just been killed first. In what possible instance does this constitute less trauma than the live birth (or c-section for that matter)?

As to your contention that it's logically indefensible to not hold the mother criminally liable is to ignore the fact that the majority of pro-lifers have as their goal the elimination of the procedure; either all at once or one at a time. Extremists and media caricatures aside, most pro-lifers have respect for the women themselves and choose to encourage them in good choices rather than castigate them. It's a measured view that more babies are saved through love and understanding than through browbeating Bible throwing.

Lastly, I think you are missing the point regarding abstinence-only education vs willy-nilly condom distributions. It is hard to contend that there is a better way to prevent unwanted pregnancy than not having sex and as such, encouraging this method over safe sex seems logical. I agree that absolutely ignoring standard sex education isn't ideal but neither is introducing sex talks to pre-pubescent youngsters.

Uncle Walt said...

I am rarely an absolutist on things, but I don't see a path to a middle ground on this. If life begins at conception, then abortion is murder. Where is a logical middle ground.

I don't see politicians out there saying they really want to criminalize abortion completely so they are supporting late term bans or partial birth bans as the best they can do. They talk like this is all they want to do. Some on my side of the aisle support things like late term abortion bans or partial birth abortion bans not out of a belief that abortion is bad, but to avoid being labeled an extremist.

I don't understand your point about Campbell not being a person because he was born after his due date. I never mentioned due date. Campbell was a person the moment he was born. As was Padraig.

I don't know enough about the circumstances where an Intact Dilation and Extraction is the appropriate procedure. I think it is generically dangerous for the government to be in the business of banning specific medical procedures for political reasons. If there was no medical need for the procedure, then why is it used? The description is pretty gruesome, but then a description of any surgical abortion can be pretty gruesome. That isn't justification for banning it. You haven’t seen justification for its use. Then don’t use it! The fact that a procedure has a gruesome description is no justification for banning it.

In all the research I have done on this topic, I have never seen any study that indicates that there are many women having abortions after viability using any method.
Part of this debate seems to be this belief in the Pro-Life community that all these women who are having abortions are doing so just because. The implication seems to be that there are good enough reasons for having an abortion and unacceptable reasons, and that the government should be in the business of deciding which reasons are good enough. I think that it is dangerous to allow the government to make that kind of value judgment for its citizens. I fear that opens a door that will be hard to close.

You stated in your comment that “most pro-lifers have respect for the women themselves and choose to encourage them in good choices rather than castigate them”. That may well be true for many in the Pro-Life community. But that attempt to help pregnant women to make “good choices” is not the core focus of the movement. The core focus of the movement is to make abortion illegal. The Partial Birth Abortion Ban that the Supreme Court blessed imposes no sanctions on the pregnant women, only on the doctor. That is logically indefensible. If the doctor is committing a felony by performing a specific procedure, then how can it not be a crime to drive to the doctor’s office, make an appointment for the abortion, pay for the abortion, then show up and participate in the abortion? How is the Nurse not guilty of facilitating a felony, of conspiring to abet a felony? How is the company that owns the clinic not guilty of running a criminal enterprise and therefore subject to the penalties of the RICO act? If the act is a crime, then seeking someone out and paying them to commit that crime must be a crime as well. I don’t ignore the fact that some Pro-Life activists will attempt to persuade women against abortion, but that is not the goal of the movement. Its goal is criminalization. And criminalizing only the doctor makes no sense what so ever.

As an aside, why would any of this disappear?

Matty said...

This is a long debate with many facets and I'm not sure I have the time or energy to get into rebut after rebut.

I understand your points and while I don't agree, they are as well expressed as any I've heard from your side of the isle. A few thoughts as I read them.

The point about Cam and Padraig is this.... Cam was just as much a human at 40 weeks as was Padraig. Unfortunately, by your standard one (P) had rights as such and the other did not (C). The thought that at the same development, viability, age, size, etc one would be subject to the protections of the law while the other (by random chance, my son) would not, frankly sickens me. Despite the respect I have for you, if this line of logic isn't compelling then I honestly don't think this particular discussion merits continuation.

I don't think that the pro-life community implies by pointing out the more superficial reasons for abortion that some are acceptable and others not. It is merely an attempt to expose the moral rot at the heart of the industry.

Also you state that you don't think the government should be making those kinds of value judgements. You realize of course that the repeal of Roe v Wade would merely put the decision where it should have been in the first place - in the hands of the electorate. I think a good number of the pro-life folks would be placated by simply eliminating the mandate by unelected officials that there be virtually no limits on the procedure. You don't like the government making values judgments? Roe was the very pinnacle of this type of tyranny.

I will agree that the core focus of the movement is not to help pregnant women make correct choices... it's to save innocent life. Whether or not you agree with their assessment of when life begins, you have to admit that this is the core of the issue. I'm not saying that all the methods are 100% logical from a legal standpoint but that's because the battle is being waged step by step across a broad front and one side is trying desperately to chip away at the legality of the procedure. The end result is a disjointed compilation of random statutes and laws across 50 states.

The pro-choice side is a bit confused in the sense that many (Obama included) say life begins at birth and yet are opposed to laws that protect born-alive children who survive an abortion. Now that policy not is not only out of step with their own rhetoric but with human decency all-together.

The disappearance thing was a jab at the well documented propensity for embarrassing items on lefty sites and Obama's own website to magically disappear. I read a variety of blog which have started taking screenshots to prove that the pages which they reference actually did exist. I doubt you care but if you're curious at all, I could probably go back through some archives and point out a few of them.

Sorry that this one seems to have come across a little less civil than most comments.... emotion does that sometimes. It was good to see you this week.

Uncle Walt said...

Cam and Padraig are not the same. Their mothers are not the same. There is no reason to assume that the time spend in the womb would be the same.

Each were born in their own time. The normal gestation time that your doctor uses to predict a birth date is just a prediction. Its not exact because it can't be.

At 40 weeks, Cam was different that Padraig at 40 weeks. Different viability, size, development. Could either have been delivered earlier if needed, almost certainly. If either had been born later would that have hurt them, almost certainly not. Did the doctor know with precision when conception occured, when implantation occured? Maybe maybe not.

What we know for certain is that each of those fabulous little men was born when they were born.

So no, I dont' find this line of logic compelling.

The disagreement between your belief in when life begins and mine is the core of the debate.

And it is a belief. And neither of us can prove our position to be right or wrong.

And if there is a way to accurately predict viability then I might be willing to consider that as a better definition. But the ability to make that prediction is subject to a range of unknowns that will exceed our understanding for a long time.

I suspect that the issue of blog posts dissappearing if they become too controversial is not unique to Liberal blogs. I see no reason to dissappear any of my posts. I like the sound of my own voice too much for that!

Worry not about your tone. This is a deeply emotional issue for all sides. When discussing issues that you are passionate about, that passion should show up in what you say.

Uncle Walt said...

As for RoeVWade, no suprise we disagree.

One of the central reasons for the Bill of Rights was to ensure that the minority were protected from the whims of the majority. One of the most important ways that our rights are protected by the court is the concept of compelling state interest. In order to ban a certain activity, the state has to demonstrate that it has an interest in banning that activity.

There is a compelling state interest in banning killing people or taking their property.

The court found, and I agree, that the state has no compelling interest that justifies banning the abortion of a non-viable fetus. The decision over the status of that fetus is a private matter for the Pregnant Woman.

The court did allow for restrictions against the abortion of viable fetuses. They never defined viability. Those states that have attempted to define viability in the law have usually used a time frame, usually 24 weeks of pregnance.

This decision was not the court making a value judgement about whether or not abortion was good or bad. Their judgement was that it was a Private decision.

I guess you can call that a value judgement if you want. But that is clearly a different kind of value judgement than I was talking about. The value judgement that I don't want the government making is deciding for women which justification for an abortion is acceptable. Tahts a value governments are incapable of making impartially. Thats a value judgement that governments should not be allowed to make for their citizens.

I agree with the court that the sum of several of the articles/amendments to the Constitution effectively consitute a Right to Privacy. The Right to Due Process. The Right to be safe from Unreasonable Search and Seizure. And absent

Matty said...

Ok 2 things....

First, Cam and Paddy were almost EXACTLY the same at 40 weeks, including size, viability, development, etc. I understand that gestation is an estimate but I find it inconceivable that you don't see that at the point 10 minutes before birth Campbell was actually further developed than Paddy was. He was MORE viable because he was older. His tragic flaw was to have a small mother who took slightly longer to give birth. It wasn't that he wasn't ready for birth it was that Sarah's body had trouble getting to that point. The only difference is that he was on the wrong side of birth canal at 40 weeks.

This is such a silly distinction and it's based entirely on the whim of the mother... It is ridiculous that hard core pro-choicers think that a woman who is 40 weeks along can go to hospital and either induce or abort regardless of the viability of her baby.

The fact that you find the right to abort in the Bill of Rights constitutes yet another area in which you and I cannot find a middle ground. The constitution is a living document only in the sense that there is a system in place for changing it. It says what it says. Unfortunately the Roe justices felt that the overlay of their social agenda necessitated interpreting it in a why that was contrary to precedent and logic.

My opposition to Roe has 2 separate facets. As law it is a horrendous feat of activism and extrapolated a right that is no where to be found. It took the decision out of the hands of the people and placed it out of the reach of the electorate; judicial tyranny. You say that the Bill of Rights is to protect the minority for the majority? No, it's to protect the electorate from the government.

Please explain to me how the rights to due process and unreasonable search and seizure can be interpreted to allow abortion? No one is being searched, seized or tried.

From a moral standpoint... well, I think we've covered that.

Uncle Walt said...

The supreme court didn't establish a right to an abortion. It establisheded a right of Privacy. And it ruled that the state had not demonstrated any compelling interest that allowed invading the private decisions women have to make regarding control of their own bodies.

Roe v Wade didn't just create the the Right of Privacy, it was built on earlier cases like Griswold v Conecticut. In Griswald the state of Conecticut passed a law forbiding the distribution of condoms to anyone, including married couples. The court ruled in Griswald that the decision to use contraception was a private matter and the state had failed to provide any justification for the intrusion into a couples private lives. Roe was not contradictory to precedent. As for logic, I would disagree, but that argument depends on the assumptions you make coming in.

Roe V Wade took what Griswold and other cases before it, had done and expressly articulated a Right of Privacy. It found the State of Texas had no compelling state interest in forbiding 1st Trimester abortions. I allowed for limited restrictions during the second trimester and allowed states to virtually ban abortions in the third trimester if they so choose.

The core of what they decided was there is a Right of Privacy. Abortion was protected under that right.

I had to go back and relook at Roe and Griswold. Although Griswold is based in part on the 1st, 4th and 9th amendments, in Roe the court relied mostly on the due process clause in the 14th amendment.

I won't disagree that a moment of birth definition of life has arbitrary elements to it. However defining viability is complicated and would often be subject to arbitrary judgements since we lack the capacity as yet, to precisely define viability.

As to whether or not the Bill of Rights is there to protect us from our government or to protect the minority from the whims of the majority, I contend that is two ways of saying the same thing.

If a majority of people, and through them their legislators, decide that Jews or Muslims should not be eligible to vote, the courts would and should overturn that decision. The courts have frequently ruled that laws are unconstitutional because they violate the rights of a small group of people. Rarely does the Supreme Court have to overturn a law that imposes an unreasonable burden on the majority, legislatures will usually do that themselves.

I would warn against an assumption that your position is somehow more moral than mine.

Roe v Wade was inevitable given the direction the court had been going since the early 20th century. And it has implications far outside abortion.

And it was the right thing to do.