Updated: May 4
Abortion - the most triggering word in America.
So many layers that impact someone's view on it -
Emotions. Circumstances. Morality. Philosophy. Religion. Worldview. Politics. Guilt. Freedom. Privacy. Gender. Sexuality. Personal Experience. Trauma. Fear. Economics. Sustainability.
And remember, we all are biased on this issue. We are the privileged Born.
And a large percentage of us can potentially be a party to an unplanned pregnancy. Many adults want a back-up plan if "Plan A" doesn't work - it just seems like such an outsized consequence (an 18+ year obligation* for, let's say, a few minutes of "activity").
You may have already had an abortion. Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, there have been over 60 million abortions. One estimate says 1 in 4 women will have had an abortion by the time they are 45. And there are others potentially involved in an abortion (though on a very different level): the father of the unborn child, parents of the mother (and father), abortion providers, counselors, and friends and other confidantes. Once involved in an abortion, it would take incredible courage and emotional strength to change your position.
For these reasons, I have always believed the pro-life position was a political loser - more so with each passing year since Roe.
But let's park the politics - and all the complex layers listed above. Instead, let's briefly touch on a small number of (relatively) simple, but key, things:
Yesterday, someone leaked a draft Supreme Court opinion that purports to overturn the Roe and Casey decisions. That leak should never have happened. The leak is an important subject all by itself - someone with a trusted role in our system of government utterly betrayed that trust and did real damage to our system of government. But, we will ignore that for now.
Legally, the Supreme Court should overturn Roe. "You anti-abortion zealots! How is it ok for 5 old people in robes to tell me what I can do with my body?!" Exactly. They have no right to make abortion illegal.** And, for the same reason, 7 old men in robes had no right to make abortion legal in 1973.
It is not their decision to make. That is precisely why Roe was always wrong and should be overturned. Recall that with a single opinion, the 1973 Court invalidly invalidated the laws of all 50 states. We will have all kinds of passionate debates about what our abortion laws should be (I can almost hear Michael Buffer in the background), but the issue of the moment is simple - this isn't the purview of SCOTUS.** Before Roe, the issue rested with our elected representatives. After this decision (if it holds), the issue will, again, rest with our elected representatives. Representative democracy.
"Wait a sec. There are several legal scholars who have supported Roe." Well, yeah. That just goes to show that if you want something badly enough, you can rationalize it. And that it sometimes takes an "expert" to screw up that which is straightforward and simple (more on that in future posts).
Read Justice Alito's draft opinion. It is an excellent treatise on how the Court should work. And why Roe didn't work. And (for better or worse) it protected other progressive decisions and reiterated the right of the people and their representatives to make their own abortion laws.
At this point in history, we are all about "The Science." Again, whether we like it or not, The Science (like The Law) is pretty simple here. We all realize something called a fetus grows inside a woman for around 40 weeks and then is born as a human baby. But, what is a fetus, scientifically? Simple: it is a human being. How do we know that? DNA.
The Science also makes clear the fetus is an individual human being, and it is not "part of the mother." With limited functional exceptions, every cell of the mother has identical DNA. With the same exceptions, every cell of the fetus, has his/her own, unique DNA - the same DNA he/she will have until they die, whether that is at 5 weeks of gestation or 105 years after birth.
As an illustration, a male pre-born baby has XY chromosomes. Obviously, the mother does not. By the 12th week or so, a baby boy has a penis. Mothers do not (sorry to break this to all of you gender-imaginative folks). The baby is critically dependent upon mom (as it will be after birth), but it is not part of her. The Science is clear.
So, ok, the pre-born baby is an individual human being. But does that necessarily mean it has rights? I am aware of all the tangential arguments out there - like
It's a human, but is it a "person"?
Should viability be when a human receives rights?
Should sentience matter?
Don't we legally kill humans sometimes (war, death penalty)?
How can we balance the mother's rights with the baby's?
What about the usually cited exceptions (rape, incest, life of the mother)?
We will be arguing those topics in the coming months. But, let me leave you with a syllogism to think about.
Government has to be limited, but it does have important, specific duties. And the most basic duty of government is to protect innocent human life. So:
Premise 1 - Government should protect innocent human life.
Premise 2 - An unborn baby is both innocent and human life.
Therefore: the government should protect unborn babies.
The only way to get to another conclusion is to arbitrarily deny personhood (or human rights) to a particular group of human beings.*** That conclusion is fatal to the group denied their personhood, and a dangerous precedent for the rest of us.
A Final Plea - Keep it Human(e)
As we go through this, whatever side you are on, please try to treat everyone with empathy and understanding. The vast majority of people on both sides are trying to "stick up for" either women or children. That does not mean both sides are right, but it does mean most people on both sides are well-intentioned and their passion flows from believing they are protecting victims of injustice.
* The real minimum consequences would be the remaining months of pregnancy from the time of when the abortion would have occurred, netted against the cost, discomfort and risk of the abortion procedure. This is because the child can be placed for adoption (another important subject for another day).
** Actually, you can make a MUCH more coherent argument that the 14th amendment gives an unborn child the right to protection than you can that it grants a right to abortion, especially when you couple it with what we now know scientifically about the unborn. Regardless, either determination needs to be based on a strict and fair reading of the Constitution, not on the desires or policy opinions of a simple majority of justices.
*** or subordinate the most basic right of one group to the preferences of another, which is essentially the same thing.