Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Abortion and Aspirin

CNN has an article about the two abortion cases on the Supreme Court docket: one having to do with parental notification, to be argued day after tomorrow; and the other involving restrictions on anti-abortion protests outside clinics where abortions are performed.

The most-watched case, to be argued Wednesday, deals with a 2003 New Hampshire law that would make it illegal for an abortion to be performed on a minor unless a parent or legal guardian had been notified in writing 48 hours in advance. The only exception would be if the procedure was necessary to prevent the minor's death.

A federal appeals court found that exception is not broad enough, ruled it unconstitutional and blocked it from taking effect.

"This law does seem to be crafted to demand some kind of Supreme Court review," Lazarus said. "It really goes to this question of how much you have to protect the life versus the health of the mother. That comes from the initial ruling in Roe v. Wade. It's not an issue that has been settled at the court."

Exactly. This is what I've always said. How do you define a woman's life? Is a woman more valuable than a fetus only if she's about to die? Or does her mental, emotional, and psychological health and stability rank higher than the continued development of a clump of cells? What about chronic medical conditions like epilepsy, diabetes, shortness of breath, or hypertension? Does the right of a fetus to be born trump the right of the woman carrying that fetus to end a pregnancy that could trigger a serious medical condition or worsen an already existing one? And what if a girl is raped? Does the torment of having to play host to a rapist's seed for nine months qualify as a threat to a girl's life?

These issues are all the more important to me because I am the mother of a teenage daughter. I am chronologically beyond getting pregnant, but she is just beginning that part of her life.

My daughter and I are close. We have talked many times about sexuality and pregnancy. I feel reasonably confident that she would tell me if she became pregnant without being forced to. But what if, for whatever reason, she did not want to tell me, or didn't feel she could, or should? I care more that she should have access to the proper medical care than that she should be turned away for not having notified me.

I will say this as bluntly as I know how: My daughter's physical and emotional well-being is paramount to me. I make no distinction between her life and her health in the context of prioritizing my daughter over an embryo or a fetus.

There is an enormous lack of understanding out there about the extent to which parental notification and consent laws put the lives and health of teenage girls at risk. Even the people who really should know better often don't.

New Hampshire argues separate provisions -- which it calls "safety valves" -- provide for a health exception by allowing doctors to seek an emergency judicial waiver of the notification requirement for non-life-threatening health issues.

But what if the doctor isn't concerned about non-life-threatening health issues? What if the doctor can't find a judge who is willing to hear the case? Most judges hate these types of cases, and many simply refuse to hear them.

Legal scholars say the case will turn on whether New Hampshire's law represents an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions. The high court has followed that standard when deciding whether such laws are too restrictive. Supporters of the state say the law in question falls far below that.

"Should parents be notified if a minor's going to have an abortion? Of course our answer is that they should be notified," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.

"You're not talking about parental consent, you're just talking about notification," he added. "In high school, a kid can't even have an aspirin without getting a parental slip, so the idea that they could have an abortion procedure without telling the parents that it's about to happen just seems to be outrageous."

When it comes to a teenage girl seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy, there is no meaningful difference between parental notification and parental consent. If a girl is afraid to tell her parents about a pregnancy, consent is a nonissue. The girl is not worried about her parents telling her she can't have an abortion; she's worried about her parents finding out that she's pregnant and needs an abortion.

And that argument about a kid needing parental permission for an aspirin is an endlessly repeated canard that has no validity as an argument for parental notification laws at all. Most parents are not going to disown their child or scream at her or call her a whore or beat her up for needing an aspirin. And most teenage girls are not going to be afraid -- or terrified -- to tell mom or dad they need an aspirin. You don't need judicial waivers for school regulations that require teachers and office staff to get parental permission before giving out aspirin. That should tell you something. Even the most ass-backward idiot should know that telling a parent their kid is pregnant and telling a parent their kid asked for an aspirin are not similar in even the smallest way.

I think we should start caring more about our kids' lives and less about our desire to pull rank on our children.


'Thought & Humor' said...

The left just seems to get
more excited about anything
when death is on the table.
I don't know what it is, whether
it's disaster death or war death
or society deciding we're going
to off some of our fellow citizens,
they get ginned up about it, really
get excited about the death aspect.
But, but, you start talking about life
and somehow they just don't have
as much interest in that, as though
it is enlightened to understand that
it's some people's duty to die and
get out of the way, and that not
everybody has a right to life. It
depends on what somebody
else wants. So I am continually
amazed at the left.

Kathy said...

Your comment makes no sense. The issue is always life versus death when you're talking about war, capital punishment, end-of-life decisions, or abortion.

The difference between you and me (apparently, if I'm gleaning your opinion correctly), is that you think there is a right to life that exists before birth; but you don't necessarily think there is a right to life after birth that would extend to war and state executions.

I really think that people who talk about fetuses having a right to life are referring more to a right to be born, rather than a right to life. Because once birth occurs, the outrage at humanity's disrespect for human life ends.

But in truth, there IS no right to be born. There's no such right.

Spoomonger said...

If we look at the abortion issue consistent with our body of law as a whole, we can simplify the "life vs. death" issue. In general, we all do have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; to live out the full timeline of our life to its natural end. However, in our society, it is also morally justifiable to take another person's life under certain circumstances (self defense, war, etc.)

The premise to be reconciled is that a baby in the womb is just as much a person as one outside the womb. If think about the implications of the so-called "a clump of cells" being a human being with a whole future ahead of them, you may be able to better understand why the pro-life people are so impassioned.

Everyone interprets a fetus to be one of two things: a living baby or just "a clump of cells." The "point of life" arguments are moot. If you have to take action to keep someone from living out the rest of their life, you are killing them; whether or not that life has begun to be lived or not.

I think it's sad how some people treat those who have the opposing viewpoint - on both sides. Perhaps if we all try to see through each other’s viewpoint, we can at least be respectful of one another. Unfortunately, there is not much room for compromise or conversion of viewpoints. This will always be a polarized issue, with the ends as distant from each other as a living baby is from a clump of cells.

Chief said...

Another excellant post. Well done.

I, too, do not understand what thought & humor was attempting to convey. I get exicted about stupid preventable deaths, such as state-sponsored executions and the 2110 service people killed so far in Iraq. And the ineptitude of various governments before and after Katrina. Heck they are still finding bodies in the lower Ninth Ward 3 months after the storm struck.

However, I do hold a living, breathing woman's life above any "rights" a fetus inside her may hold.

To me it is a no-brainer.

In a perfect world, teenage girls would not get pregnant. And if she did, her parents would be supportive. But it isn't a perfect world.

Kathy said...

Another excellant post. Well done.

Thanks, Chief!

Did you notice that memeorandum has started picking me up? That was one of my personal goals; I'm really excited. :)

Kathy said...

To spoomonger:

But what if the zygote, embryo, or fetus doesn't have a whole future ahead of it, because of genetic or chromosomal abnormality, or because it's unlucky enough to be in the womb of a woman who is living in poverty in a country that worships wealth and despises the poor? There are countless other reasons why the zygote, embryo, fetus could very well not have any kind of a viable future ahead of it.

Amd what if the zygote, embryo, fetus endangers the physical, psychological, or emotional health of the woman whose womb is hosting it? Pregnancy is a situation in which the rights of two living entities are in conflict with each other. You cannot protect a fetus's right to be born and a woman's right to own her own body at the same time. You have to privilege one over the other. A choice has to be made about whether the zygote, embryo, fetus's right to be born trumps the pregnant woman's right to her life, her health, and her bodily integrity. Someone has to make that choice. Either the woman has to make that choice or the state has to make that choice for the woman. I am of the opinion that the woman should be the one to make the choice.

You say that in our society it is morally justifiable to take a life in certain circumstances. You name self-defense and war as two examples. Regarding war, I have to ask why you believe it is morally justifiable to take life in this way. I know our society (and most societies) say that war is morally justifiable, but I don't agree that it is.

Self-defense, of course, is different. Self-defense is one of the very, very few morally justifiable reasons for taking a life. What puzzles me is why you don't think a woman's right to end a pregnancy is rooted in the right to self-defense.

Anonymous said...

The relationship between a society and its members is only the palest shadow of a mothers relationship with the baby growing inside her.Everything that is metaphorical in the case of society is solid real in the case of mother and unborn child.

From my point of view a mother does have a right to kill an unborn child but there is no way that right can be extended to give the society the right to kill anyone.

A society can't claim the right to kill ,say, murders on the grounds that a mother has a right to kill an innocent baby, And a mother doesn't have to base her right to an abortion on the rights of society over criminals and soldiers. They are totally different situations.

Spoomonger said...

Hi again, Kathy - Spoomonger here.

The situation I was referring to as "self-defense" is the same as when you said, "what if the...fetus endangers the...health of the woman...?" If one person (baby) endangers the life of another person (woman), it is consistent with the moral and legal code of our society for the life of the former to be taken if necessary to protect the life of the latter. In other words, abortion to save the woman’s life is justifiable.

Taking someone’s life is the ultimate act of aggression against them. If we consider all lives equal, taking a life of one for the sake of the ‘emotional health’ of another becomes a bit of a stretch. I’m sure the thought of carrying the baby of someone who raped her could be very hard on the woman, but we have to remember that the baby is guiltless of any wrongdoing. We do not hold children accountable for crimes of their parents in this country. To be consistent with our societies legal code, we should side with life in these situations. It is better for one party to suffer temporary hardship than another to lose their life permanently.

So, actually, I do think that self-defense can justify ending a life (pregnancy), but that’s as far as it goes. I don’t know if the ratio is still this skewed, but I remember a statistic back in the late 80’s that abortions for medical reasons, and cases rape and incest combined accounted for less than 2% of the abortions performed in this country. The vast majority of abortions are for the convenience of the mother. While our discussions above are valid in those cases, we are really dodging the heart of the issue by focusing on such a slim proportion. I would be happy to see a 98% reduction in abortion. The 2% does not justify the allowance of 98%. The moral and legal basis of our country says that we as a society value life, and each have a right to it. Since we all have a right to life – women and babies alike - one of us cannot have a right to take the life of another of us just for their own convenience. Abortion for convenience is inconsistent with our common values and law.

Chief said, “However, I do hold a living, breathing woman's life above any "rights" a fetus inside her may hold. To me it is a no-brainer.” With his or her use of quotation marks I would hazard to guess that Chief does not see a fetus as being a person having a right to life as guanteed by the constitution. This points us to the ultimate irreconcilable difference between pro-lifers and pro-choicers. Pro-lifers see the fetus as a baby with a whole life ahead of it. Pro-choicers see a fetus as something less than that (a zygote, an embryo) using other terms with a connotation that it is just a clump of cells. I speculate that each persons pre-existing perception of the fetus determined which side of the abortion issue they would choose. Therefore, it is almost impossible for us to expect to change anyone’s position on the issue. Talking about, though, can help us understand one another better, though, and perhaps end the hatred and bitterness that permeates the political arena. If I imagine myself believing that a fetus was just a wart, I would have no problem with abortion and completely agree with you and Chief. Therefore, I understand your position and respect it. I don’t hate you and if we ever met I wouldn’t yell or scream at you either. Imagine believing that a fetus is a living baby, even outside the body if it helps. Does that help you understand the motivation of pro-lifers? If someone was about to slaughter a living baby, would you not object?

Since taking a life is the ultimate act against them as I mentioned before, I think our society should err on the side of caution and use abortion only as a last resort, but maybe I am biased do to my perception of the fetus. ;-)

Spoomonger said...

Dear Anonymous,

Try reading my sentences from left to right – that may help. My comments are on abortion as a matter of law and a baby’s right to life as derived from the constitution. The constitutionality of abortion – or lack of it - is the issue here. If a baby has a right to life granted by the constitution, what is any mother’s right to end that life derived from? You say a mother has a right to kill an unborn child. Where is such a right granted in the Constitution or Bill of Rights? I don’t believe those two rights can co-exist logically.