Sunday, July 15, 2007

When Ideology Overturns Reason: Pro-Choice Advocate Denounces Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

It's no great secret that abortion is one of the world's most divisive political issues. Infused with varying degrees of religious, ideological and emotional interests, it's very difficult to find a fair and balanced look at abortion.

Few are willing to even try.

Abortion is one of the political issues that instills a "with us or against us" mentality in most of those who carry an interest in it.

Both sides of the abortion debate can be driven to spewing devestatingly vitriolic drivel against their opponents. A recent letter by Hanover Park, Illinois resident Tim Johnson published in the August 2007 issue of Playboy magazine serves as a particularly chilling example:

"I suppose we've all been reading the news. The Supreme Court voted five to four to knock women's rights back several decades. Well, not quite, but it has built the coffin and pounded in the first of many nails. The ruling doesn't ban abortion (yet), but it upholds the ban on a certain abortion method.

The judgement doesn't change the outcome of the abortion, and it has no effect at all on the woman's health or the fetus' chances of someday becoming a Republican.

The banned method is called intact dilation and evacuation; it involves removing the fetus intact while it is still in the uterus, as opposed to dismembering it while it's still in the uterus, then pulling it out.

Opponents deem this a partial-birth abortion and argue that the dignity of the fetus must be preserved. The fetus must die with honour. Are you kidding me? Perhaps they should drape a tiny American flag over the dismembered bits before scraping them out.

In justifying the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy fed words to the press like
morals, ethics and respect--ignoring the glaring fact that the ruling saves not one life. It does, however, open the door to future faith-based antiabortion rulings.

This is the same thinking that lets peopel watch Michael J Fox shrivel up on prime-time TV while they fight stem cell research. It makes me wonder what "life" implies to so-called pro-lifers: At what point is a life worth saving in this instance? Only after you've made
Back to the Future 4?

I see. Sorry, McFly, your life doesn't work into their equation.

How far are we going to take this? They'll have you believe life begins before a cell even knows what kind of cell it will be. A stem cell has the potential to become a life--yes, I get it--as do my millions of sperm. What legislation will you pass to preserve their dignity? Must I wear only the finest silken stars-and-stripes drawers so any accidentally spilled swimmers can dry, crust and flake off with dignity?

-Tim Johnson,
Hanover Park, Illinois
For many people, the first reaction to a letter such as this may be disbelief that it got published, followed closely by disblief at the callousness with which this mr Johnson--presumably a pro-choice advocate--treats what would otherwise have been a human life.

Let's look beyond the fact that a partial-birth abortion, also known as an intact dilation and evacuation abortion, does, in fact, seemingly induce birth in order to perform an abortion; Let's look beyond the base perversity of inducing the final stage of giving life in order to instead take it. Let's look beyond the fact that few people in their right minds would tolerate livestock being treated like that. Let's even look beyond the alarmism being encouraged by Johnson's letter.

One particular line from his letter seems very illustrative.

"Perhaps they should drape a tiny American flag over the dismembered bits before scraping them out."
One caveat seems necessary. Without knowing mr Johnson intimately, it's impossible to understand the state of mind under which he wrote this letter. Perhaps he was angered by the ruling (actually, this seems to be very much the case, but it's impossible to know for certain). Perhaps he's under a good deal of stress in his personal life. Perhaps all of this is reflected in his letter, as opposed to his personality. Without knowing mr Johnson, we don't know.

But in the absense of any mitigating factors, Johnson's letter seems--at its basest level--to demonstrate a true disregard for a human life being lost (which is the case in virtually any logical sense). Even if it doesn't accurately reflect mr Johnson's attitude toward the lives being lost in the course of abortions (and one hopes for mr Johnson's sake that it truly doesn't), this only serves to give the most virulent pro-lifers more ammunition to be used in this polarizing and divisive debate, only making it more polarizing and more divisive, so that no reasonable progress can ever be made.

One thing typical of hard-core ideologues on both sides of the abortion issue is that they don't want any progress to be made, under any circumstances. Mr Johnson portrays what is actually a very reasonable ban on an extremely inhumane abortion method as an attack on the rights of women, even while admitting that the decision doesn't outright ban abortion.

What is actually a very reasonable limit on the circumstances and methods under which abortions can be performed is instead portrayed as an insidious civil rights abuse.

On the other hand, consider the example posed by individuals who believe that abortions must be banned under any circumstances, including those involving rape, incest, or the imminent death of the mother carrying the child due to maternal complications. In the end, they really aren't much different at all. Both believe they can settle for nothing less than a complete victory, and they care nothing for the lives held en escrow, only for their own personal ideological view of the world, which they feel they have a right to impose on the rest of us.

North of the 49th parallel, another very reasonable bill was denounced by pro-choice groups as well. Proposed by Vegreville-Lloydminster Conservative MP Leon Benoit, Bill C-291, the fetal homicide bill, proposed to make any individual who harmed a fetus while in the act of perpetrating a violent crime against an expecting mother would be charged separately for the crime against each.

Let's look beyond the fact that the bill had nothing to do with abortion--currently legal in Canada--but dealt rather, with violent crime--currently illegal in Canada. Rabid pro-choicers complained that the bill would essentially re-define the point at which a fetus is considered a person, despite the fact that a fetus will eventually become a person if an abortion is not sought and recieved.

And while any such re-definition under this law could prove potentially troublesome for abortion law if not clarified--and apparently, clarification was needed--this is why bills must pass three readings before the House of Commons before they become law, allowing for important revisions in between readings (perhaps in this case, a revision that defines a fetus whose mother intends to deliver it as a person, while allowing a certain degree of flexibility for those who intend to seek an abortion, or who are undecided).

Instead, Bill C-291 was scuttled, largely a live sacrifice to ideologically-paralyzed pro-lifers.

If people such as Tim Johnson had their way, the United States Supreme Court would do the same with bans on intact dilation and evacuation, or partial-birth, abortions, despite the fact that they, like Bill C-291, are both entirely reasonable defenses of the rights of the unborn.

Unfortunately, in the minds of the most ideologically-blindfolded pro-choicers, the unborn have the same rights that their pro-life counterparts allow for those who have been born: none.

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