Concluded from yesterday’s column:
Abortion Opponent: What about the right to life? How can you deny that to the innocent unborn—even if it is only a potential?
Dr. Hurd: Whose rights are more important—the ‘right’ of the not-yet-individual fetus to be born? Or the right of the already-individualized mother to have control over her destiny and her body? To me, the answer seems obvious. Consider something else.
If the fetus has a right to be born, then might not the same ‘right’ be established for an infant not yet conceived? If the government is allowed to force women to carry a baby to term, then what’s to stop the government from also issuing an edict that citizens must procreate whether they want to or not?
A future President Michele Bachmann or President Rick Santorum, for example, might decide that since the traditional family is in decline, or birth rates were getting too low to ensure the survival of Medicare and Social Security, then we must consider the rights of all the unborn Johnnys and Suzys — including those not yet conceived.
In short: procreation can become mandatory, on the same premise that makes carrying fetuses to term mandatory. And, of course, if procreation could be mandatory, so too could abortion become mandatory during a different political administration seeking to lower birth rates. Who knows? Maybe we could even form a Federal Reproduction Board, to constantly monitor and determine birth rates, just as the Federal Reserve Chairman presently monitors and controls currency supply and the banking industry.
Don’t dismiss this scenario as preposterous. It’s not a difference in principle, if you think about it. If we have a moral duty to actualize a fetus — initially only a tiny mass of cells growing in a woman’s body — then it seems like we also have a moral duty to give rise to the fetus in the first place, if the government wants us to do so.
As soon as we give up even a tiny piece of the principle that we own our minds and bodies, then it’s only a matter of time before all freedom is destroyed. Even the left-wingers, normally supportive of abortion rights, could join in on the act. They could argue that in order to achieve the greater social good of a ‘compassionate’ society, we are all duty bound to make sure we have enough employees born to keep up the standard of living for all. If the government may impose on its citizens a duty to provide a minimum wage and a guaranteed minimum income, why not also a minimum birthrate?
Abortion Opponent: What about late-term abortion? Who could condone killing a nearly born fetus? Haven’t you seen the pictures? They are horrifying scenes of carnage.
Dr. Hurd: Who could condone sacrificing the life of a mother when, for medical reasons, an abortion may be necessary late in the pregnancy? Allow me to show you a picture of a dead woman who died because her government dictated she must sacrifice herself for the fetus.
Or, let me show you a picture of two young parents, forced to carry a child to term against their wishes, and against their ability to afford it. Let me show you the psychological and economic condition of such a child. Would those pictures count for anything? To say nothing of the stress of living under an authoritarian government which determines whether you have children and, if so, how many.
It’s hard to imagine that any woman would carry a child to the third trimester, unless she was reasonably certain she wanted the baby. To postpone thinking about whether or not to have an abortion until late in the pregnancy is self-defeating, irresponsible—and dangerous.
Yet there must be room for exceptions. A pregnant mother could lose all her money in the third trimester and face financial ruin. Her husband might die suddenly. Government edicts are notoriously at odds with rational exceptions.
For example, an unexpected and sudden health problem may require a woman to terminate her pregnancy late in its term, even though her original intention was to carry the fetus to birth. Many who advocate outlawing partial-birth abortions will allow for exceptions when the mother’s health is endangered, at least in principle. But what will such an exception mean in actual practice? Will the mother and doctor have time to write a letter to their Senator, or to the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, to gain permission? To fill out Form X2378911APL, The Request-For-Right-to-Abortion-Under-Exceptional-Circumstances Form? Must medical treatment be put on hold to attain a court order?
The obvious impracticality and the moral indignity of such a scenario should be enough to dismiss it immediately. It will always make sense, obviously, for a woman to have an abortion sooner rather than later. Why go through risks or discomfort with an abortion at 7 months when you could have an abortion at 2 months? With or without government edicts, partial-birth abortion will always be the exception — most likely due to medical reasons for which the government would have to make an exception anyway.
Arguing about partial-birth abortions represents an evasion of the central questions nobody on the left or right seems to want to name explicitly: Is the fetus a life? If so, why? And if not, why not?
When considering the emotional issue of abortion, do yourself one very important favor. Ask yourself the central, most fundamental questions first. Take your time and think over the answers carefully, without losing sight of the facts. Don’t retreat to the cowardly, wishy-washy middle for fear of thinking. Don’t allow people with mistaken or dishonest motives to set the terms of the debate for you. The terms of any debate must be set by the fundamentals.
I just identified the fundamentals for you. Now form your own conclusions.