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Archives for Abortion

Doctors and Lawyers

Apr
24
2007

Has anyone else been walking around bent-over lately? Because it feels like the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a big kick in the gonads to American women and the men who like to have sex with them with last week’s decision supporting a federal ban on an abortion procedure.
The court upheld the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, brushing aside the fact that it doesn’t contain an exemption for dangers to a woman’s health. Ignoring the evidence from real doctors, the court decided there’s no real medical need for this procedure. Given that the Supremes are now setting themselves up as experts in women’s health, I wonder if they’re going to start taking care of Pap smears and mammograms too.
Certainly this is part of an incremental plan to overturn Roe v. Wade, and it was hailed as such by those opposed to abortion rights. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, long may she judge, wrote in a dissenting opinion, the act and the court’s support of it “cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court.”
One striking thing about this decision is how clearly it shows that for many opposed to abortion rights, the issue has less to do with protecting fetuses than with controlling women. As Ginsberg, l.m.s.j., wrote, the act “saves not a single fetus from destruction.” The law bans one kind of procedure, intact dilation and evacuation, and the court opinion relied on that fact, that other abortion methods are available, to argue that the act isn’t thus invalid.
But banning the procedure, which is used only for later-term abortions, including on fetuses with severe defects and that wouldn’t survive after birth, will “gravely endanger” women’s health, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the doctors who actually treat women. There are instances when intact dilation and extraction is medically preferable, the association says. And if it’s medically preferable, that means there are times when use of the procedure could help avoid complications – complications that might cause difficulties for future pregnancies.
So while on the one hand the decision shows no concern with present or future fetal health, on the other hand it also relies on really antediluvian arguments about how li’l women just don’t know what they’re doing and need to be protected from making bad old decisions. The New York Times has some analysis of this point. (Ginsberg, l.m.s.j., writes powerfully about Justice Anthony Kennedy’s comments in this vein. BitchPhD is right in suggesting that you should read Ginsberg’s dissent if you want to feel there’s “still someone on the court who gets it.”)
Activists on both sides of the abortion debate have been galvanized by this decision. But looking ahead to the presidential election, is this blatant attack on women’s (not to mention doctors’) rights, going to drive more votes for Democrats? Abortion rights supporters have long tried to rally their side by arguing that the freedom to choose an abortion is on shaky ground. Now, Planned Parenthood, for example, reportedly just got a big outpouring of support. This time it seems the wolf really is coming after the sheep. The Supreme Court decision was a sharply powerful demonstration, and the clearest to date, of not only the actual removal of a freedom, but also how shaky all abortion rights are.
Regardless of the opportunity to choose a Supreme Court justice, the next president, whoever he or she might be, could also provide a counterweight to a conservative court. And after the court decision, the presidential candidates stuck to party lines. The Democrats came out strongly against the decision, while the Republican candidates, including “pro-choice” Rudy Giuliani, supported it. Most Americans support keeping abortion legal, but with certain limitations; in any case, about a third of American women will have had abortions by the age of 45. The party faithfuls have their clear positions, but will the Supreme Court decision strike those in the middle as threatening what should remain legal, or as properly removing an unpleasant option?
The decision could also drive conservative Republicans who see victory over abortion rights in their grasp. I just hope we’re not forced one day to rely on the Dutch abortion ship to come sailing to our rescue.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 10:18 PM | Permalink

Portugal? South Dakota? I’ll Take Holland

Feb
28
2006

An article about abortion in Portugal in this Sunday’s El Pais, Spain’s leading newspaper, opens with a striking anecdote. In 2004 a Dutch NGO, Women On Waves, sailed a ship off the coast of Portugal to offer abortions on-board and to draw attention to the country’s highly restrictive abortion climate. But Portugal banned the ship from coming near; and to make sure it stayed out of Portuguese waters, the defense minister sent out a warship to hover nearby.
Too bad for South Dakotan women that their state doesn’t have a coast. Because I know they don’t have their own Navy; a ship might get through there.
The Portuguese law on abortion is highly restrictive – and unusually for an E.U. member nation, punishes doctors and women who abort with jail sentences, although according to El Pais, in recent years judges have avoided giving women prison time. (The article is in Spanish, so I’ll summarize a bit of it.) But what’s also interesting is that even for the few cases where abortion is legal (such as fetal malformations, rape, danger to the mother’s health), the culture makes it extremely difficult to get a legal abortion, according to El Pais.
The newspaper – for you gringos, it’s The New York Times of Spain – says that Portuguese law is actually similar to Spanish law, which is restrictive on paper but allows abortion to protect a woman’s mental health, a clause which is interpreted fairly liberally. Portuguese law does limit abortion access more, but according to the article what really keeps abortion unavailable is doctors’ refusal to perform the procedure. This is in part because of social pressure in the country where the Roman Catholic Church still has a strong hold on social customs, in part because performing abortions illegally is a profitable business for the doctors, nurses and clinics who do it, according to sources quoted in the article.
The idea that individuals’ attitudes affect abortion access is not that different from what happens in U.S. states with parental notification laws when a girl runs into a conservative judge. Or in the large parts of many U.S. states where there are only a few, if any, doctors who perform abortions.
Much of the El Pais article interviews women who’ve had abortions and their stories are sad and infuriating. And they are similar to what happened in the U.S. before abortion was legalized. Some of the Portugese stories are similar to what happens, even today, in places where the operation is hard to come by. Women travel to Spain for abortions, or go to illegal or quasi-legal clinics in Portugal. There’s a rich young woman who could afford an illegal clinic, a poor girl who induced her own abortion and almost died, a woman whose contraception failed, an older woman who when younger went in secret to the neighborhood non-medically trained abortionist.
And one story of a woman whose abortion was legal, because of severe fetal malformation. But the public hospital kept subjecting her to delaying tests, until the woman’s own doctor said it was clear the hospital was trying to stall until the legal time period had passed. So the woman went to a nurse’s home clinic for the abortion; this nurse worked at the public hospital that was stalling her “legal” proceedure.
The U.S. Supreme Court today made it easier to intimidate women trying to get abortions. Laws in many states have been trying to chip away at – or remove (see South Dakota) – abortion rights. The El Pais article drew my attention not only to learn about Portugal itself, but for what it reflects back on the U.S. It’s a demonstration of the danger of the current anti-choice tactics. It’s not just the laws but their interpretation and the conservative climate that both – interpretation and legislation – bred, especially as they affect medicine where, for instance, a lack of practicing doctors causes a de facto abortion ban in many U.S. counties.
All that could mean that too many women are left stranded, in real need of flagging down a passing ship in a land-locked state.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 5:05 PM | Permalink

The Killer at Seven Months

Jan
23
2006

Look, no one’s for lynching,” the speaker said to the citizens gathered around him in the town square. “Both sides can acknowledge that killing a black man is a bad thing. But can’t we work together to work to eliminate the root causes of lynching, while still acknowledging that it is sometimes a necessity, and ought not to face a legal penalty?”

Having dutifully followed Chris’ link to Sarah’s essay on abortion, I have but one request: can we please have an honest pro-abortion defense, just once? I do not mean to imply that the likes of Sarah are on all levels dishonest — she doubtless does believe in her imaginary ranks of impoverished women who must kill their children on grounds of physical want, and she doubtless was quite ready to sacrifice the many in her own womb so that the few and the strong could survive. That much is frank and true, and brava to her for stating it forthrightly. Know ye hence that the virtuous poor are extinct: we now hold that poverty extinguishes the need for virtue.

What is dishonest is the repetition of the sickening trope that choice is the surpassing good where a mother is concerned. In an era within living memory — that might be distant antiquity for the likes of Sarah — certain things were taken as intrinsic goods and surpassing values of their own: wartime patriotism; many children; a mother’s enduring defense and love for her own. The cultural left has abandoned all these things in favor of an ethos best summarized as do what thou wilt, or do what ye will. That these are word for word the putative first principles of the modern apings of paganism and worse is hardly coincidental. A mother’s first claim now is not to the fulfillment of her motherhood but to the ability to annihilate it. It is an immense power — the reversal of time’s arrow, the un-becoming, the satiation of the demands of circumstance and convenience — purchased only at the price of a life.

Such it is: a life, and whether human or not, whether a person or not, Sarah does not dare to say. She takes refuge behind the gauzy language of respect and abdication of responsibility that passes for relational dogma in sensitivity training and elementary schools: “[W]e must respect the fact that [mothers who choose abortion] understand their own situations and personal limitations better than we do….we must respect them as capable, decision-making adults.” It befits us to be generous here and declare this utter nonsense. It is nonsense because it makes no logical sense: we do not have to respect the decision to abort at all, nor assume that a particular person is ipso facto the single most sound judge of his or her circumstance. (The last, coming from the left, is deliciously hypocritical.) And it is nonsense because it makes no moral sense: here, we are a long way from asking, “Which now of these….was neighbour unto him?” The left, so ready to assert communalism in economic matters and in the upbringing of the children that survive the caprices of their parents, descends into mute abdication here, discovering at last, in the sacred right to kill the unborn, the notions of individual responsibility and personal accountability.

Thus we return to the need for an honest defense of the pro-abortion position. No further pretense that choice is the supreme value, when it appears to matter nowhere else. No more deference to the hypothetical wisdom of the hypothetical impoverished whose hypothetical circumstance in life argues strongly against the hypothetical existence of that wisdom. No further abdication of the basic purpose of law, conscience, and morality. If these things can say nothing about the existence, personhood, or the humanity of the unborn thing that is crushed and killed in an abortion, then what else may they say at all? What may they say of murder? What may they say of property? “But those cases are different,” responds the pro-abortion chorus, and indeed they are: but that is not the point. The point is simple enough — if we can declare one area free of the powers of law, conscience, and morality, on what grounds are others subject? (Surely the inevitable riposte will be made that law, conscience, and morality are here merely wholly determined by the sovereign individual: but the inevitable infinite extensibility of this makes a mockery of, and renders meaningless, those very concepts beyond that very sovereign.)

Tell us, Sarah, without evasion: Is an abortion the killing of a child? Is it the killing of a person? Is it the killing of a human? When does a child, person or human lose the inherent right to live for its own sake? Who determines that point? As you puzzle this out, I give you the salutary example of a more honest defender of “choice.” She is the wave of the future, and the logical end-state of the self-volitional regime: the mother who sloughs off her motherhood — that hideous burden! — holds forth her bloody hands to an approving crowd, and shrieks how very glad she is.

Posted by Josh Trevino at 3:57 PM | Permalink

The End in Itself

Nov
8
2005

Deborah Klosky’s anti-Prop 73 piece is a useful illustration of the fundamental contradictions inherent not just in those who think minors should be able to achieve abortions without parental knowledge, but in the pro-abortion movement at large.

This isn’t just a Californian issue, nor just an American one. As luck would have it, the same fight is being waged in the UK, where Manchester housewife Sue Axon is working through the courts to ensure that parents receive the same protection that Prop 73 would provide. The UK Observer provides a succinct synopsis of the core issue at hand:

When Sue Axon’s teenage daughter accidentally cut herself at school recently, the nurse would not give her a sticking plaster until telephoning her mother for consent.
In an era of litigation-happy parents, such caution is increasingly common. In very rare cases, plasters can cause an allergic reaction. But had her 13-year-old gone to nurses seeking to arrange an abortion, the legal duty of confidentiality would have ensured that her mother would never have been told.

Ear piercings. Rhinoplasties. Appendectomies. Tonsilectomies. Tympanostomy tubes. Aspirin. All these common childhood procedures or medicines require parental consent. Why is abortion different? Why does a child’s wish for an abortion supersede a parent’s very rights as such? Why do the anti-Prop 73 forces adore the right to abortion in itself, in all circumstances, to such a perverse extreme?

That — not much-protested care for errant daughters — is what’s at the core of the pro-abortion side’s motivation here. Despite the vacuous rhetoric of “safe, legal, and rare” that most “mainstream” pro-abortion advocates claim to adhere to, the truth is that they wish to maintain abortion as a privileged and unique act, divorced from the ordinary realm of medical procedures — and indeed from the ordinary rights of parenting itself. This is, of course, a contradictory stance if one accepts the general pro-abortion thesis that the unborn child does not possess humanity or personhood: in that case, abortion is assuredly an “ordinary” medical procedure that would follow ordinary medical and ethical practices with regard to parental consent.

The truth is that most pro-abortion persons implicitly recognize that abortion is far from ordinary, and the unborn child is something unique and, indeed, inherently worth preserving (although not always at the cost of thwarting the liberal god of individual will). This puts them in a tight spot where public policy is concerned — they must fight threats to the privileged position of abortion in the public square, even as they publicly endorse arguments that inherently negate that position. Given the bedrock of dishonesty upon which the post-Roe facade rests, this conundrum is almost de rigeur.

None of this is say that the likes of Klosky do not sincerely care about the hypothetical daughter who might be in a tight spot because of parental notification. But as even these persons must acknowledge, 73 contains clear escape clauses for precisely these sorts of situations — it’s hardly an absolutist, nor cruel, bit of legislation. The authors of the proposition having bent ever so much to accommodate the stated fears of the pro-abortionists, will the latter reciprocate? Will they acknowledge that parents have established rights, and that under their public logic, abortion is no nullifying exception to that?

Of course not. Abortion-as-cause is not about women any more. It’s not even about “choice.” A grim, slaughtering generation after Roe, it’s about abortion.


Election day in California is half-over, and the point will shortly be moot. But until then, if you can, if you will, vote yes on Prop 73.

Posted by Josh Trevino at 12:25 PM | Permalink

Aborted Reasoning

Nov
7
2005

Californians vote Tuesday on the “Ground Your Slutty Daughter Proposition.”
That’s Prop 73, which would require doctors to notify parents if their daughters are seeking an abortion. In other words, a girl has sex, something teenagers do do, no matter how much we don’t want to acknowledge it. Then she stresses because her period’s late, she figures out she’s pregnant, she decides what to do, she gets money to pay for an abortion, she finds a doctor, all this while hiding from her parents the practically constant text messages and phone calls to friends about it. Why? Because, surprise, not all teenagers see their parents as a hip Ward and June.
But there’s no home-free spot. Because out goes the letter to mom and dad, and you’re busted, honey. Any punishment serves you right, and don’t come whining about the condom breaking.
The law would allow judges to grant an exemption to the notification requirement if a girl can show she’s mature enough to make her own decision, assuming that the judge isn’t opposed to all abortions or to sweet little girls going behind their parents’ backs. But if the girl has managed to take responsibility for the whole difficult process of trying to arrange an abortion, then I say she’s demonstrated enough mature judgment. After all, there are truly wrong ways to deal with an unwanted pregnancy.
Girls can also get a court exemption if they can show that notification isn’t in their best interests–if they’re from abusive homes, possibly incest victims or facing getting kicked out if their parents find out about the pregnancy. So the girls who need the most extra help at a difficult time instead get an extra hurdle.
Still, it’s not concern or lack of it for abused kids that will tip the balance in Tuesday’s vote.
The proposition is backed by groups opposed to abortion rights, while most Californians continue to support the right to abortion, according to an L.A. Times poll published Thursday. That poll also showed support for the proposal running 12 points ahead of the “no” vote, with 10 percent undecided. (A separate poll released Wednesday showed the “no” vote climbing ahead by 8 points, also with 10 percent undecided.)
A victory could come if the relatively little-publicized proposition, which defines abortion as causing “death of the unborn child,” mobilizes supporters to go vote in greater numbers than opponents are drawn out.
Men, conservatives and the religious tend to vote yes, as you might expect. But a winning margin would have to include some supporters of abortion rights giving in to a knee-jerk reaction (more colorfully articulated elsewhere by Gov. Schwarzenegger): if it were my daughter I’d want to know.
Of course you would. Me too, if I had a daughter. Of course I happen to only have sons, but I’d like to know if one of their girlfriends, when they’re old enough to have them, has an abortion. Can someone legislate that? How about making cellulite be considered sexy?
If your daughter didn’t tell you about the abortion, a law’s not going to make her. Girls with money will spend a “long weekend at their best friend’s house” while they travel to another state. And girls without money will have to evaluate the increased difficulties in getting an abortion and decide to forgo having sex because a rational risk/reward analysis shows it’s just not worth it. Right? That would be tough enough for a 25-year-old, let alone a 15-year-old.
If anyone’s really interested in improving family communication, why not provide subsidies for families with kids and mandate flexible work leave, so parents can spend more time with their children and get a chance to have conversations not triggered by legislation.
That’s a proposition I’d vote for.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 4:25 AM | Permalink

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