Thursday, April 19, 2007

Who Is To Blame For the SCOTUS’ Latest Abortion?

I wasn’t entirely surprised that the Supreme Court of the United States upheld Bush’s Partial Birth Abortion ban. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy argued that "government has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life."

Why wasn’t I surprised that the Supreme Court was willing to take a walk on the wild side with the abortion issue? I personally believe that the Supreme Court these days takes stock in which way the wind is blowing in terms of American opinion.

Most Americans favor abortion on demand. That’s just a fact. That’s why I don’t think the supremes will ever overturn Roe v. Wade. However, while most Americans favor abortion as a general concept, most Americans are opposed to what has come to be called “Partial Birth Abortions”. The term, “partial birth abortion” is itself a political term designed to inflame passions. In truth, the fetus is not “born”, the woman’s cervix is dilated allowing instruments to remove the fetus in pieces. Annatopia at Texas Kaos has an excellent posting on this. The Chron article also has an excellent explanation of what a “partial birth abortion” is and what it is not.

In that article, it is made clear that “partial birth abortion” is not a medical term. For that reason, doctors cannot be sure that the procedure that they are performing comes under the banning. From the Chron:

“’There is nothing that we call by the name 'partial birth abortion,' ‘ said Dr. Eleanor Stanley, an OB-GYN who works at three abortion clinics in Las Vegas and Phoenix. ‘The phrase doesn't appear in gynecological textbooks or medical research journals’, she said”

It is likely that the procedure called “Dilation and Extraction” or D&X, is what is referred to as a “partial birth abortion”.

“Nine out of ten abortions occur during the first trimester. But if ultrasound examinations in the second trimester reveal that a fetus has a devastating genetic disorder, it might be too large for the surgical instruments, so D&E would not be an option.”

In Annatopia’s story, we have a couple excited about the prospect of having a baby, only to discover in the second trimester, through an ultrasound, that the fetus had not developed properly and had spina bifida and hydrocephalus. If the fetus survived to full term it would require endless surgery to keep it alive, and brain function would be extremely limited. Bush’s bill would demand that the couple have that baby, and Kennedy’s majority decision puts the government in the position of promoting the life of a child born encased in a horridly deformed body. But obviously not at government expense.

But do you know what really fries my grits? The ban is a ban on an emergency procedure to preserve a woman’s health. The ban, by my reading of it, does not ban the procedure in order to save a woman’s life as in this case cited by the Chron.

“’Sometimes the pregnancy is a threat to the life of the woman,’ said Dr. Warren Hern, who runs the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Colorado. He recalled a case of a patient who suffered from uncontrollable high blood pressure because her fetus had a chromosomal defect. ‘I wound up doing her abortion in the hospital at 3 a.m. because if I didn't she'd be dead by daybreak. A D&X procedure was the only viable option’, he said.”

However, nothing in the ban allows doctors to perform a D&X in order to preserve the mother’s health. “Some doctors who perform second-term abortions said it was safer and less risky to remove the fetus intact because that method is less likely to expose the woman to injury, bleeding or infection”. This procedure is not exempted as it is for saving a woman’s life. It would be banned.

Are we becoming such a paternalistic society that we are demanding that women sacrifice their health for a fetus that is clearly damaging their bodies? Are we also becoming such a paternalistic society that we are demanding that people raise hopelessly deformed children with all of the emotional turmoil and financial burden that this would produce in a family?

Who do we blame for this? I believe the supremes were just going along with public opinion. Opinion that appears to be driven by blind emotion and not cold sober presentation of the facts that have poured forth in the Chron’s article today. And not just the Chron either. All of a sudden we are inundated with information on what “Partial Birth Abortion” is.

Public opinion on second trimester abortion is what it is because the public is poorly informed, or maybe more to the point, informed with lies and exaggeration. Who is really to blame for the Supreme Court decision? Not the American public, but the entity that informs the American public.

Mainstream media.


Bradley said...

You wrote, "Bush’s bill would demand that the couple have that baby." You raise a fair question about birth defects. But there is a larger question that you must be willing to answer first. Are you willing to kill a child with a birth defect at one year old? One month old? One day old? One day before birth? Two weeks before birth? Where is the line? If you argue that that line is at birth, you have no credibility.

You've got to admit that we're talking about two human beings here--a mother and a baby. It is not easy to tell when we should consider a fetus a baby. You won't persuade anyone who doesn't already agree with you by griping about paternalism. Talk to us about life and where we should be drawing that line.

I think most people agree that self-defense is a solid moral principle, and I can understand applying that principle in an abortion context to preserve the mother's life. But I think that such decisions do not belong in courts. Roe should be overturned on the basis that it took a decision out of the hands of the people and their elected representatives. If most people favor abortion, as you say, then you should have no fear of Roe being overturned. Returning the decision to the people should hardly be considered "walking on the wild side."

Hal said...

Well Bradley I see that you have formed your opinion, and that the opinion is very probably that life begins at conception. That is a very convenient place to draw the line. But that's the extent of it. There is no proof that life begins at conception. That is a belief.

Where do I draw the line? Life begins when the fetus is capable of living outside the womb. By definition, anything unable to sustain itself is not alive.

And Bradley, since you have a masculine name I assume you are male. I would hope that you, as a person who has no reproductive ability, would keep your opinion to yourself when the matter comes up.

The choice is a woman's choice, and only a woman's choice.