This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

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.


Anonymous Brian said...

This post sets up truly absurd straw man arguments on behalf of the pro-life side, and as thus can't be taken seriously. You really intend to argue pro-lifers want to repeal Roe in order to bring back bans on interracial marriage or that we seek commonsense pro-life regulations "not to stop abortion, but to force women into back alley abortions", just to name a few of the egregious misrepresentations. Please don't pretend to be interested in a serious discussion on this important issue while painting such a fiction of well meaning pro-lifers. Also, I suggest you read the Doe v. Bolton case (decided along with Roe) which defines the "health" exception to which pro-lifers object. It is not, as you depict, an exclusively medical life/health exception but instead provides a giant legal loophole which justifies abortion due to financial health, psychological health and other far more amorphous rationals. Effectively this kind of loophole renders any pro-life legislation irrelevant.

I'd be curious to hear when you believe a human life begins, and, if different from that point, when he/she deserves protection under law. That is the real issue here and the one in which you utterly avoid examining while creating ridiculous fake arguments you attribute to advocates of life.

10:11 AM

Blogger Michael Bindner said...

Doe v. Bolton is different from the health exception that would be put into a legislative prohibition on late term abortion. By definition, such a prohibition would extend full rights to the unborn after a certain stage of pregnancy, so the Doe v. Bolton exception would no longer apply.

I have direct experience with many "federalists" who disagree with any federal interference with state legislators. You only need listen for a bit to Justice Anton Scalia and those who talk about Activist Judges and Strict Constructionism to get their point.

Human life begins at gastrulation, when the organism begins to organize into something different then an aggregation of unorganized stem cells. It deserves legal protection under the law then Congress says it does and when extending this protection does not make it impossible for obstetricians to practice without fear of a lawsuit from some couple who had a miscarriage who has been victimized by some Regent Law graduate wanting to make a buck and a political point. Don't tell me that won't happen - I know too many lawyers.

The issue is not when the fetus deserves protection - but what you are willing to do to protect it. Before Roe, the only protection was a fine.

Finally, as I said, it is not up to Barack Obama and Joe Biden, et al to justify the decision of a Repubican Supreme Court, but for the Pro Life movement to actually make a proposal to change the status quo. It is rather cheap of the pro-life movement to insist that their issue is most important when they have no viable legislative proposal.

7:48 PM


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