21 April 2006

Another side of the abortion debate

Something I read has me thinking about the abortion debate again. There’s so much I want to say about this, but I’m struggling to find the right words. Also, I don’t want to mention the specific details of the case, because I think the woman is having a tough enough time without the anti-choice league trolls harassing her. She wants to terminate a pregnancy, and she is having a very tough time obtaining an abortion. The fetus that she is carrying has a fatal genetic flaw, and will not survive the pregnancy, nor would it be able to survive outside of the womb in the extremely unlikely event that the pregnancy lasted full term. Let’s leave it at that and see if I can say what I want to say without being any more detailed.

While I firmly believe that you should be able to obtain an abortion with the snap of your fingers, I also firmly believe that this is a decision to not be undertaken lightly. For this woman, I’m sure that the decision she came to involved much soul-searching and an agonizing internal debate. Ultimately, however, the only “right” choice is whatever choice she makes. There is no right or wrong answer here.

What I most emphatically don’t want is for legislators or religious leaders to be able to make that decision for any woman. I’m angry that she’s getting the runaround from her medical professionals, but I know that their hands are most likely tied by laws in her state that make an abortion harder to obtain. Ohio, for example, has laws on the books that require counseling and a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, and we’re not the only one. My source for this information is NARAL, of course. When I first found out that Ohio gets an F in women’s reproductive rights, I had to look at other states to see where they stood, and the states around Ohio also mostly have failing grades as well. Thirty one states have laws on the books that require abortion providers to give women biased counseling, and mandatory waiting periods, so we’re in a majority there. And then there’s the ban on abortions that Ohio passed, we’re the only state in the nation with an enforceable law on the books to prevent D & X abortions. We can thank our anti-choice legislators for that one.

I can understand the anti-choice folks opposing people using abortion as a method of birth control. I don’t agree with that any more than I agree with someone having six babies born addicted to crack. You might maybe wanna get your tubes tied if that’s what you’re doing. If you’re going to have sex, use some protection. For heaven’s sake, you can get AIDS or any number of sexually transmitted diseases besides getting pregnant. But should you find yourself in the position of wanting to terminate a pregnancy, you should not have to jump through innumerable hoops to satisfy the letter of your state’s law.

In my ever so humble opinion, this is yet another reason that abortion needs to remain legal, whether or not you think personally it is ethical or not. How could you ever think that it would be better for someone to carry a baby to term, knowing it couldn’t survive outside of the womb, knowing that a genetic flaw would prevent the pregnancy from coming to a full term? She should just wait for a miscarriage? Give me a break. That’s a serious miscarriage of justice, if you ask me.

I went to school with someone who thought that there was never a case where abortion was justified. I remember talking calmly to her about cases of rape or incest; she thought that it was perfectly acceptable for a 15 year old who was raped by her stepfather to have to carry the baby to term, give birth to the baby, and then give it up for adoption. That’s a wrong answer.

I remember a case that I followed in the news (this was a few years ago) about a couple that forced their teenage daughter to be a surrogate mother for them. They knew that she wouldn’t be able to obtain an abortion under Ohio law without parental consent, so they knew she would have to give birth to the baby. And they thought they’d get off scot-free. They did end up being prosecuted for what they did to her, but by the time they were on trial, she was in her 20s, married and with a family of her own. The news in the case was all about the failings of the child protective services agency in that county being unable to protect her, but I was thinking about her inability to make decisions about her own body, (thanks to the state of Ohio) the whole time the trial was going on.

I can’t help but wonder if our society was different, if men had the babies, if we would even be having this debate. I also can’t help but wonder if I was a man where I would stand on the issue. I like to think that men don’t get an opinion, but that’s because the most strident anti-choice folks I’ve met are men, and assholes to boot, who want to tell me that I’m a baby-killing whore who is going to hell for not sharing their ultra-conservative beliefs. My usual response to that is that when men can have the babies, then they can make a choice. The reality is that men do often have a stake in the process; what if your girlfriend gets pregnant and you want a kid and she doesn’t? Or the other way around, she wants it and you don’t. Mostly, I don’t feel bad for guys caught up in a situation like that, I’m much more worried about protecting the woman’s rights. Which isn't fair, but that's how I feel.

I’m angry that it has to be so tough. I’m angry that we still have to fight about it 30 years after Roe v. Wade. I’m also angry that I don’t see younger women organizing and working to make sure their own rights are protected. I’m 31; where are the 18-24 year olds? If you are interested in doing work for the cause, please check out Save Roe, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL.

Have a nice weekend...it is supposed to rain rain rain rain in Ohio.

Soundtrack: Fight The Power, by Public Enemy, from Fear of a Black Planet

1 comment:

Hugh said...

"I went to school with someone who thought that there was never a case where abortion was justified. I remember talking calmly to her about cases of rape or incest; she thought that it was perfectly acceptable for a 15 year old who was raped by her stepfather to have to carry the baby to term, give birth to the baby, and then give it up for adoption. That’s a wrong answer."

Although I disagree with such thinking, it is an intellectually honest approach. I mean if you are maintaining that the fetus has an inherent right to live (which most pro-lifers do), then it is not the baby's fault that it was conceived through rape or incest.

Although abortion is a terrible thing to have to make a choice about, I believe that choice should be, in all cases, allowed to the mother. My personal belief is that an individual's rights (the right to live included) attach at birth. The fourteenth amendment to the Constitution says, in part:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I think trying to attach rights prior to birth is extremely problematic from a practical point of view. Claiming that the soul attaches at conception and thus rights should too is a purely religious belief, which should not be forced onto anyone.