The Importance of the Abortion Question
We hear from certain prelates in the Catholic Church that Abortion, as a life issue, is the most important question. Philisophically, this may be the case. From a practical standpoint, however, nothing could be further from the truth.
I am not saying for a second that we should make our ethics depend on practicality. What I am saying is that there is not much that can be done on the issue by the next President, at least if he or she holds to the Pro-Life legislative agenda. For all that I can divine from what they have written, their goal is to restore the pre-Roe status quo. This is pathetic, as this implies that they would be happy to give the states the right to impose a fine on abortionists.
Looking at the issue this way, it can hardly be considered as the most important queston before the electorate. It also does not justify the collateral damage to equal protection law which would occur if Roe were overturned in a way to make it a state affair. All civil rights law would be upset by such a precedent - which may be what the conservatives have in mind anyway (particulary in the areas of marriage, immigrant rights to services and even protections of racial minorities). This would be an evil means to a good intent and cannot be supported.
The reason the Court in Roe considered abortion as an issue that can be governed under the privacy precedents of Griswold v. Connecticut, which stated that birth control was a private matter, was the lack of legal status given to the unborn under Roe and the lack of any real penalty for abortion. If the penalty had been equal to manslaughter, they might have looked at the situation differently. However, the penalties were designed not to stop abortion, but to force women into back alley abortions or self-induced abortions, or to travel to other states or countries in order to obtain one. This is hardly a goal that lives up to the rhetoric of the pro-life movement - the protection of innocent life under law.
The real question is not whether life is predominant, but the method by which pre-born life is protected. This can only be done under Roe by granting legal recognition to the unborn at some point during the pregnancy. Congress has the power to do this, while state legislatures do not. This is clear under the 14th Amendment. The Democrats are willing to have this discussion. In the last debate, Barack Obama stated he would protect all late term pregnancies (provided there was a health exception). The Pro-Lifers likely won't go along with this, since it would take much of the heat out of their argument. Late term abortions give them the shock value they need to keep their voter and contributor base radicalized. Compromise does not.
As to the health exception, this does not endow doctors with any more power than they already have in dealing with the separation of conjoined twins or the decision on whether to suspend artificial life support or CPR. We pay them to do this.
As to the protection of early pregnancies, legal recognition has its own set of problems. Society has never granted such recognition this early. Doing so makes every pregnancy and miscarriage a public event. Some say I am an alarmist to say this, but that is because they have not yet thought through the implications of their position. Obtaining pre-natal care or treatment of a miscarriage would be more difficult to get as OBs become wary of lawsuits for not making sure the fetus lived (even when it is genetically defective and should miscarry naturally) and as OBs become wary of Regent Law School graduated prosectors going throught their patient records trying to find abortions - real possibilities if the fetus is a citizen.
A better way to protect innocent life is to make children affordable, both by enacting a living wage supported by $500 per month tax credits for each dependent and by removing the responsibility to pay for college from parents. Of course, the pro-life movement will call you a Socialist if you propose such things. Another reason to vote against whoever they recommend.