Monday, June 13, 2005

This Week's Issue - Abortion

We respectfully ask that you read the entire post before commenting the first time, but for your convenience we have put a jump to the comments section right here, so that you can easily find them.

As I write this, I’m looking at the first reason Balance of Power was created: To speak out against extremism in politics. Few issues are as emotionally charged as abortion. It has marked a dividing line in this country for decades now. Both sides accuse the other of extremism. I suspect both sides are right. My goal with this post is to present the pro-life side clearly and unapologetically. Below, with a few edits for continuity, , and helpful links thrown in, is my side of a long and fruitful discussion from Liberty Just in Case last month. Go here for the full and somewhat long winded discussion.

I want to thank the Big Five for this opportunity to blog at BoP. I consider it a great privilege. And now, on with the show…

A woman’s right to choose...

The phrase has become familiar to us all, since Roe v Wade became law on January 22nd, 1973. The phrase speaks to the question: What is human, and when does human life begin? And who makes that decision?

Is the fetus simply an extension of the mother's tissue until birth? If so, then a woman has the sovereign right to kill it, to excise this tissue the same way she would a wart.

Or is the woman the "host" for another human life until it can survive on its' own? If so, no one has the sovereign right over that other human's body, no matter what stage of development he or she is in, or what level of inconvenience this may place on the mother. If this is true, then it is only when the choice is between those two human lives that an ethical dilemma would exist.

Being male, I cannot be pregnant, thank God.

But I firmly remember sitting in church one Sunday morning and seeing my daughter's hand push out against my wife's stomach. Each finger showed for that instant. Recent in-vitro video has shown clearly that infants in the womb feel pain, react to stimuli, and even suck their thumb. To advocate for a woman's right to abortion, you must believe that this "other" who reacts to pain, feels, and reacts to stimuli is but a piece of tissue. In order to believe that, you must be able to explain away this, and this, and this.

Conservatives believe the decision on abortion belongs to the state legislatures. When I say states should choose, it is because I believe a majority of those states will see this "other" as human, and make laws accordingly. Roe v Wade was not decided by representatives of the people, but by judicial fiat. Is it really surprising that Roe in this case is fighting like mad to see that decision overturned?

Don’t women have a right to their own mind? Who are you to try to change a woman’s mind if she wants to have an abortion? If abortion is the killing of a human, then the mind being destroyed is certainly not the mother's. Crisis Pregnancy Centers across the country are seeking to change minds every day. They have this right because the right to life supersedes the right to convenience.

The pro-abortion argument, with minor exceptions, was the same used to support the Dred Scott case. The question before the Supreme Court of that time was basically: Is a Negro human? It was decided the answer was no. Thousands of lives were lost on both sides before that court decision was changed.

The Supreme Court in 1973 may have decided the unborn was but a fetus, but this does not make it true. I'm not for lawlessness. But I am not for unquestioning obedience either.

One more of the pro-abortion arguments is this:

"A man has no right to tell a woman what to do with her own body."

This statement is laid down as the trump card in any abortion debate between a man and woman. If the man agrees, no more can be said. If he doesn't agree with the statement, he is just a power mad male chauvinist, part of the historical patriarchy that has oppressed women forever.... Hobson's choice. No answer to the basic questions, but an effective conversation stopper.

If the growth inside is objectively just a peice of tissue, to be removed as easily as an appendix, the pro-abortion woman is right. A man has no right to tell a woman what to do with her appendix, or any other lump of tissue growing in or on her.

If, however, the life inside the woman is a separate human being, does the woman have the right to say what to do with that body? Does she have the right to kill a defenseless human depending on her for survival? Can a man, or another woman, take steps to protect that infant? Does society have an obligation to protect that defenseless life?

I will make my position as clear as possible. A defenseless infant in utero has a right to life and protection, superseding the right of a woman to kill him/her. And society has an obligation to protect the defenseless, born or unborn.

Does this mean I'm gonna go torch an abortion clinic? Of course not. Does it mean I can never foresee a circumstance where abortion may be necessary to save the life of a mother? Of course I can. Does it mean a woman or a man have no right to disagree with me? If that were the case, I would not be guest blogging on Balance of Power.

Does the above mean that I will do what I can to get Roe v Wade overturned? You bet. Does it mean I will volunteer for a Crisis Pregnancy Center, hoping to influence women to keep their babies alive? I will, and do.

Last thing: Yes, the overturning of Roe v Wade may bring back secret abortions, back-alley surgeries, etc. Those may well be the consequences of such a reversal. They are sad, and deeply painful. But the moral, indeed spiritual, consequences of killing thousands of unborn babies since 1973 can not be ignored. The weight of that decision continues to haunt, and divide, this nation as has no other issue since slavery. I pray that through forums like BoP, we can seek an end to this haunting division with less upheaval than was needed to end slavery.

Mark - Liberty Just In Case

The mother's life comes FIRST.

My friend, this is NOT a "left vs. right" thing. NOBODY'S advocating abortion as a rational choice in most circumstances. I agree - if you have an abortion, you've just killed a kid. REALIZE, when you kill a kid, you will live with that choice for the rest of your life. I suspect I will be saying the same thing most others will be saying in this weeks' "rebuttal".

But, sometimes, we MUST kill a child. When a mother's life is seriously threatened by going through with the birth of the child, at the mother's discretion, the child is aborted. Of course, in this circumstance you would try to sustain the life of the child outside of the womb. Obviously, a child that is only days, or weeks old has virtually, no chance at survival.

I also believe there is one more circumstance in which abortion should be considered. Should a woman have endured a horrifying, brutal (and aren't they all?) rape, and a mental health professional has determined the woman might endure severe, mental anguish as a result of the childbirth; she should have the right to have an abortion. Again, ONLY after counseling with a mental health professional should this be an option.

Again, the mother's physical AND mental health should come first. My hope would be that one day, such technology would exist that would be able to spare the life of even an unwanted, un-developed fetus AFTER it is removed from any mother's womb, but at this point, that option remains but a dream.

As for any other circumstance that I can think of, I am PRO-LIFE, PERIOD. Same goes for the death penalty, too. Pro-life is "pro-life", PERIOD, end of story, in my not so humble opinion. Because of my Christian upbringing, I simply cannot condone the killing of a child under any other circumstance, NOR can I see anybody being able to convince me to change my opinion and belief on this subject.

Carl - The Gun-Toting Liberal

First of all and before I respond, I want to make it clear that in regards to abortion, I don't think anything is more extreme than taking away the right to have an abortion. I don't agree with abortion and would support legislation that made it harder to have an abortion but in cases of medical emergency and rape, abortion must still be legal. Limiting frivolous abortion is one thing but ending abortion all across the board, as has been proposed by many on the right, is absolutely intolerable.

Ok, Mark's first question is this: "Is the fetus simply an extension of the mother's tissue until birth?" I believe that when fertilization first takes place, an embryo is not yet a pain-feeling, thinking creature in it's own right. During the first few weeks of pregnancy, the fetus is nothing more than a blob of organic material that has the potential to become a human being. However, studies have shown that by the third month, a fetus has a working nervous system and is a small person, for all intents and purposes. I believe that any abortion that has to take place should take place before this time, preferably in the weeks immediately following fertilization.

Mark's second point is that "the decision on abortion belongs to the state legislatures." I don't agree with this, strictly for political reasons. The citizens of some states would, I believe, willingly prohibit abortion based on religious views with little thought to eventualities like rape, incest and medical emergency. While it would be within their rights to do this, it would force a narrow view of opinion on everyone in the community, the majority of whom likely don't agree. I know there are those who would argue that dissenters should get out and vote to prevent such a thing from happening but the problem is that individual people cannot organize for a cause as well as the already established church folks do, which would make it incredibly hard for the majority of individuals who disagree with the religious folks to meet and fight them in the political arena. Thus, I believe that abortion is an issue that should be monitored on the national level to ensure that everyone's good is taken in account, not merely those with clout.

Mark's third point is to ask, "Does society have an obligation to protect ... life?" Society has an obligation to uphold the rule of law. As a society that claims to be the land of the free, we have a moral obligation to ensure that everyone's view is respected in our laws, no matter how little we agree or how much we disagree. We have to protect life but we also have to make sure that this protection isn't abused. I would point out that many religious conservatives are opposed to various forms of birth control, measures that protect life by preventing unwanted pregnancies and by proxy abortions. This makes no more sense than trying to breath underwater. We have an obligation to protect life but we have to do so by reasonable means: promote adoptions instead of abortions and ensure that birth control and condoms are readily available. We have to face the facts that people are going to have sex, no matter how harsh religious view are forced on the public. We have to respond with realistic measures that prevent pregnancy in the first place rather than become reactionaries when abortion rates go up.

In conclusion, I would like to state that a comprehensive measure is needed to govern abortions in this country. There are without doubt too many abortions and that is extreme but it would be more extreme to outlaw them outright. I commend Mark for volunteering at the Crisis Pregnancy Center and I agree with him that action is needed, but not to the extreme of overturning Roe vs. Wade. I believe Congress should pass a comprehensive law creating guidelines for when abortion is acceptable and not, allowing women and their doctors to have the final decision but with consequences of some sort for frivolous abortions. We need a strong law that is fair, not an extremist law that replaces one bad with another. God bless!

Joseph - The New Oklahoma Democrat

Boy am I going to sound liberal on this one, well hopefully not totally.

Let me first say, I think abortion is wrong, it, like suicide, is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Pregnancy is not a curse, it is a blessing. There are always options, and abortion is but one not very good option. Adoption, and foster care are far better options then abortion. But these are my personal feelings. I know, if I were female, that I would never have an abortion. But the facts stand, that I am not a woman, so I have to speak from a point of ignorance.

While I personally abhor abortions, I do not think this country is ready to illegalize the practice. There are many examples of what happens when something that was formerly legal, is made illegal. Prohibition is one good example. When alcohol was legal, and then made illegal, the production and distribution of spirits did not go away, it went under ground. Many people died because of it. When Marijuana was made illegal, it also did not go away, it simply went underground, and today still causes deaths due to it's trade, with no real ill effect on the market for it. I feel a similar thing would happen should we make abortion an illegal practice. I fear that back alley abortions would thrive, and many citizens would die due to these practices. Not only would women still seek out abortions, but they would have a very high risk of death in doing so.

No, I think education and funding to alternative programs would go allot further in stemming the tide of abortions. We need people to adopt more and remove some of the burden on the already over tasked foster systems here in America before we can ever hope to stop abortion. We need to educate young women about the social, mental and physical ramifications to having an abortion. We need to educate those considering abortion on their alternatives, and we need to make better, more viable, and more numerous alternatives for these women.

Is the fetus simply an extension of the mother's tissue until birth? If so, then a woman has the sovereign right to kill it, to excise this tissue the same way she would a wart.

Or is the woman the "host" for another human life until it can survive on its' own? If so, no one has the sovereign right over that other human's body, no matter what stage of development he or she is in, or what level of inconvenience this may place on the mother. If this is true, then it is only when the choice is between those two human lives that an ethical dilemma would exist.

No, Mark, I think it goes deeper than that. My question is, who is a citizen, and thus has protection under our constitution and our laws? Our constitution and laws only really apply to our citizens, while non-citizens are expected to follow our laws, they do not necessarily protect them. Who in these cases is the citizen, and where does each one's rights end? I think the citizen here is the mother. Maybe, we need to change our minds a little bit and put our citizen's lives first when we talk about this issue. The mother's life, not quality of life, but actual life is more important than a potential citizens life. If the mothers life is in danger, then there should be no question. Conversely if the fetus is viable outside of the womb, as in partial birth abortions, then they very well may have citizenry rights. The mother is actually already a citizen, the unborn, unviable fetus is not. As far as politics go, that is the test.

Education over illegalization.
Options over judgment.
Help over damnation.
I know it's a novel idea coming from a conservative, but it's mine.

Zaphriel - Birth of a Neocon

Within the libertarian community, there is much disagreement on this issue. In my experience, most come down on the "pro-choice" side of the issue, with the main argument for such being that it is an issue of self-ownership. A woman owns her body and should be able to do with it as she pleases including, as many put it, protecting herself from a "parasitic entity" living in her body against her will.

At least I can say that coming from libertarians this idea and belief is actually honestly felt. I take no issue with them making this argument or working to promote it. However, when I hear Democrats and other leftists make the argument I find it laughable. These people hold no actual aversion to controlling the body or mind of another. They advocate such control on a daily basis as they push for increased government control on myriad issues.

Take for example the current situation in North Carolina. Those on the left are arguing against the move to protect pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control and the "morning-after" pill on a moral basis. The argument they use, however, is basically that a pharmacist is no better than a vending machine and must blindly follow what is written on the script pad. My position on such a proposal is simple. Pharmacists who own their own stores should be free to dispense or not dispense any medicine that they choose for any reason that they choose. If they work for someone else, they should follow the dispensing guideline of their employer who they work for of their own free will.

The above is just a single instance where those on the left show that they have no real concern for controlling someone else's body. As I said there are countless other positions that could be demonstrated to be in direct contradiction to the left's supposed belief in right to self. However, I digress. Back to the issue at hand, my position on abortion.

For me, it is an issue of self-responsibility. People must be held accountable for the actions they take against others (people should be free to do unto themselves as they see fit). Sex has one biological purpose, the creation of new members of the species. If you engage in heterosexual intercourse, it is always a possibility that the woman will become impregnated. As a responsible person, you must accept this as fact and either take what actions you see as necessary to prevent the impregnation or take responsibility when the impregnation occurs.

At this stage, I don't think you would find much difference in my opinion and most other libertarians. Where we part company is in what constitutes "responsibility" after the impregnation. The argument that the fetus is some parasite with no claim to the mother's body is, to me, specious. It is not as if this fetus was some bacteria or leech hanging out freely in nature waiting for you to wander by so that it could make use of the resources of your body against your will. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The fetus does not exist without the direct action of the mother and father.

I therefore argue that the mother's right to self becomes subservient to the right to self of the fetus, who exists only due to the direct action of the mother. The mother may not want the child, but for me, she and the father made a de facto agreement that the fetus has the right to exist and therefore, right to self, when they willingly engaged in a biological act with no other function than the creation of life. This is not changed by the fact that they chose to use some type of contraception, none of which are 100% effective in the prevention of pregnancy.

Of course, the question arises of when is a fetus to be considered an independent life, separate from that of the mother. When does a fetus have right to self? For me personally, that right exists immediately upon conception. Reasonable people could certainly argue otherwise. After all, there is certainly a stage in the development during which the fetus has no independent consciousness and for all intents is not much different than any other tumor growing in someone's body. The difference for me is that no matter how much the tumor develops it will never become a sentient being, whereas the fetus will.

As you probably noticed, I used the term "direct action" as it relates to the parents, especially the mother. Another situation altogether arises when there was not direct action by both parents, such as rape or forceful incest (which is in itself rape). In these cases, the mother did not willfully enter into the "de facto" agreement of which I wrote earlier and the fetus therefore holds no claim to the mother.

The quandary for me arises when it is time to put abortion in terms of legality. Though I personally believe abortion of the fetus of two people who had consensual sex to be the equivalent of murder, I understand that others have different views of when right to self attaches to the fetus. Therefore, I do not personally take a position on the legality of early term abortion. Late term abortions are appalling and should not be legal.

The amazing thing (at least to those on the left, and even some libertarians) about my position is that it was derived with a complete absence of religious guidance or belief. I am an Atheist. Contrary to what they would have you believe, not everyone that opposes abortion is a religious fanatic out to institute some sort of Christian sharia.

Liberty Dog - One Billion Red Chinese and a Dog Named Liberty
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