Partial Birth Abortion
So the Supreme Court has upheld the law banning partial birth abortions without an exception allowing them in the case where it would be best for the woman's health. A sad day, indeed, when women's health is held so cheap.
I heard one report about how many people objected to partial birth abortions because the foetus
progresses partially down the birth canal and then its skull is crushed. I don't see how the alternative described in the report -- the foetus
being dismembered within the womb before being removed -- is much better. Its really tough to say which is worse -- death by dismemberment or by having your skull crushed in. Abortion at a late stage is just not a pretty thing.
I can't help but wonder if the next step will be to ban these other abortion processes, even if the woman's heath is at risk.
I actually don't have a lot of sympathy for abortion. Especially abortion that is performed as a sort of retroactive birth control. And I do think that abortion lies in a grey area vis
the principle that your rights end at the tip of my nose. Is a foetus
a "me" yet? At what point does it become a "person?"
Conception is one easy place to draw the line. After that, it is much more difficult. Do we judge it to be a person when the heart starts beating (around 6 weeks)? When brain waves can first be detected (around 14 weeks)? When it can possibly survive on its own (with current medical technology, about 20-21 weeks)?
If we acknowledge that a government has the responsibility to protect the right of its citizens to life, then it is important to draw the line in the appropriate place. After the time that a foetus
is determined to be a person, abortion is no longer a matter of the woman having a right to control her body, or to make a moral choice, but rather it is a matter of the competing rights of individuals. It would seem the right to life has to trump the right not to be pregnant, or the right to moral agency. Once the foetus is a person, then the woman's right to make a choice stops at the end of that new person's nose.
The issue is further complicated because our society at present does not allow killing individuals who are completely dependent on other individuals or machines for their survival. A person who has to be fed or is dependent on an iron lung, for instance. This seems analogous
to the condition of a foetus
which is dependent upon another individual for survival.
Nonetheless, when I look at the consequences of outlawing abortion -- the impact on the quality of life for both the children and the mothers, and the extended family, the potential for horrible suffering
as women seek illegal abortions, the additional pressure that would come to bear on the welfare system, the pressure a million more souls each year would place on the medical system, on housing, social services, the environment -- I don't think we are in a position where we can outlaw it.
Regardles of these moral conundrums, however, it seems pretty clear to me that the Supreme Court's decision in which the women's health is not considered at all, was a bad decision.