When does “life” start? An abortion dilemma
Liberals have found the new “flavor of the month”: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s resignation. Life as we know it is coming to an end. Trump’s choice will equate to a Grand Inquisitor; destroying all that is near and dear to liberal America. He or she will side with God (yikes), overturn gay rights, and worse still: abolish abortion rights. Yes folks, Armageddon is looming on the horizon. The Supreme Court will now tilt toward the Constitution and not the interpretation of it. Well that’s what they want us to think. But this is not a story about Trump or his potential choice of Supreme Court Justice (we will revisit this later), but a story about Roe v Wade. The political time bomb that has ignited hysteria among women’s movements, and equally hysterical debates among staunch conservatives. We no longer have a sane middle ground in America; hysteria to the left of me, hysteria to the right; here I am stuck in the middle!
Enters Megan McArdle of The Washington Post, who until this week I would not have known from Adam. A self-proclaimed pro-choice woman; yet she has written a scathingly provocative and intelligent opinion column that unfortunately no one will bother to read because it makes too much sense. Megan wrote a column that “talks” to the sane and not the partisan crazies. Her column caught my eye because of its title: “Now is the time to let Roe go”. Liberals will not read it because surely by the title she is advocating the end of abortion and women’s rights as we know them! Conservatives will shun it because it is on The Washington Post: the dark side of media reporting. I read it because of both reasons and also out of curiosity. It mesmerized me as I followed a unique train of thought and logic so very absent in today’s lunatic partisan world. Every politician and activist, right or left should read it, ponder, and nod in agreement. I wish!
The mistake and misconception of Roe v Wade has taken a life of its own. The law and right to an abortion was never intended to open the flood gates to uncontrolled and unfettered disposal of fetuses. The ruling is so old that it has lost its original content and intentions. Megan pointed out that the 50-year old original ruling “failed to mount a convincing case that the Constitution contains language that can be read as guaranteeing a woman’s right to abort her pregnancy”. And that, as they say, is the heart of the argument. The ruling morphed into free-for-all decisions that currently allow abortions as late as the 20th gestational week; making the United States one of very few countries in the world where abortion is permitted that late into a pregnancy. The decision has strange bedfellows. According to The Washington Post Fact Checker (October 9, 2017), six other countries allow similar late term abortion: China, North Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Canada. For the sake of transparency: the report could not verify the conditions under which abortion was legal in some of the countries. The Washington Post took on the story in an attempt to hopefully debunk a 2014 pro-life report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Eventually it concurred with the Lozier Institute that the US is the only one of the seven countries that allows late gestational abortions into the 20th week. What a badge of honor! The Fact Checker added another interesting caveat to the report: a 2015 pro-choice Planned Parenthood poll that claimed 60% of Americans oppose a ban on the 20th gestational week abortion. This claim earned Planned Parenthood the “two Pinocchio” award for “omissions and exaggerations”. To us mere mortals: they lied. I am gaining new respect for The Washington Post. In fact, a 2013 Washington Post ABC Poll found that 56% of Americans wanted restrictions on abortion unless it involves rape.
50 years later, and Roe v Wade is still every administration’s noose and nightmare. But let us take a moment to digress: does the US really want to be in the same company as China, North Korea, and Vietnam in aborting without restriction? Three countries who are not exactly known for the greatest human rights report card. Megan wonders how the US, the most religious and ethically conscious country in the world would allow such a procedure sans conditions. Both sides of the political coin have turned it into an emotional penumbra that clouds and hides the constitutional rights of freedom. But should freedom be denied to the unborn? This brings us to another argument; the 20 week cut-off as the “point of viability”. It seems that “guidelines” handed down from the Supreme Court refer to the “point of viability” as the time when a fetus can be delivered and lives outside the womb. In lay terms: the beginning of life as we know it. “Leading” obstetricians from all over the world seem to conclude that a fetus cannot live “viably” outside the womb prior to the 24th week.
The 20-week grey area of contention was brought up by The Washington Post in another 2015 Fact Checker article. The problem with “viability” is defining the precise moment of conception. Absolutely no one can tell when a fetus is conceived. Only God knows; unfortunately the fact that we have almost banished Him completely from society, leaves us with few choices but to turn to the “leading” doctors. Doctors go back to the last menstruation because that is the only point of reference they have. This means that there is no line in the sand that determines point of origin. As a matter of fact, and as reported by The Washington Post Fact Checker; fetuses have been known to live outside the womb at 22-week gestational period. The uncertainty on precise conception puts the “leading” obstetricians’ “viability” argument at odds with their 24-week “viability” benchmark. Consequently, the 20-week determination is not only on shaky ground but in quicksand.
Conservatives are not the only ones concerned about the Roe ruling. Many liberals including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have criticized the road that brought us to the ruling. But sane and intelligent discussion has long been hijacked by partisan rhetoric and uber angst emotional drama. I agree with Megan’s opinion that the current polarization of abortion “politics” has forced people to take extreme sides. There is no common ground; its open warfare. Both pro-choice and pro-life activists make us believe that they have a monopoly on our consciences. The unwavering stand on both sides is insane. The “rape” argument on the left leaves a gap in common sense: would anyone who has been raped and impregnated wait five months to make a decision to abort? I doubt it. Yet that seems to be their only argument. Pro-life activists aren’t any better; they want to completely ban abortion. This would leave some women, mostly under privileged, at the mercy of backstreet abortion pimps. Is that morally upstanding?
As much as we might like to address the issue through a constitutional looking glass; the constitution does not address abortion, but addresses life and “the pursuit of happiness”. In the meantime, both sides of the argument have based their narrative on “life” and “viability”. with very little happiness.. Roe v Wade was never a debate on when “life” begins, but on the right of an individual to end a pregnancy. The Supreme Court had no constitutional justification to rule on abortion, because as noted by Megan, there is no language in the constitution that addresses pregnancy. The next Supreme Court Justice will be faced with the same dilemma. So why the current liberal uberall hysteria and balagan? I doubt that any new Justice conservative or liberal will be a key player in this debacle. Many tried but none succeeded.
Maybe the solution lies with “we the people”; the electorate. We could turn the 20-week gestational decision over to the individual states; let the people decide. Polls show that the majority of American people want some restrictions on abortion. It was the extreme element of partisanship that hijacked the abortion law. It is the “all or none” mentality that started the war. It might not be the best alternative but it will decide once and for all what the country’s heart beat and pulse are on the issue. Personally I am on neither side of the partisan coin because I believe that abortion is singularly personal and individual. I would not want any woman resorting to alley abortions. However, I would not want to live in a country where human life is made dispensable under the convenience of “viability” either. I remember very clearly the first time I felt my child move inside of me; I did not need a “leading” obstetrician to tell me whether it was “viable” or not. I find this pseudo intellectual arrogance obscene. When does life start? I’m not God; but I would rather err on the side of life.
Brown L. October 9, 2017. Washington Post. Washington Post Fact Check Confirms: One of Just 7 Nations Allowing Late-Term Abortions. Retrieved: July 6, 2018 from: http://www.lifenews.com/2017/10/09/washington-post-fact-check-confirms-u-s-one-of-just-7-nations-allowing-late-term-abortions/
Lee M. Y H. May 26, 2015. Washington Post. Setting the record straight on measuring fetal age and the ’20-week abortion’. Retrieved: July 7, 2018 from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/05/26/setting-the-record-straight-on-measuring-fetal-age-and-the-20-week-abortion/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.dde432b1109f
McArdle M. July 6, 2018. The Washington Post. Stars and Stripes: Opinion. Now is the time to let Roe go.