March 9th 2011
By MarieAlena Castle
With the political takeover of government by the religious right, the abortion war is once again heating up. It’s time to put a stop to this. Laws restricting abortion have no secular value. They cause much harm and must be repealed. Abortion is not, and never has been, about saving fetuses. If it were, those most opposed to abortion would not also oppose doing anything for the fetus once it becomes a real person in need of food, clothing, shelter, childcare services, education and health care. In nine months, abortion opponents seem to go easily from celebrating a fertilized egg as a “miracle of life” to denigrating the actual born person as a “welfare cheat” sucking up our tax dollars.
The age-old idea that women are property dies hard. There is an a priori legal and social assumption that women as society’s childbearers have an obligation to do that, so sacrificing their welfare to the gestational progress of a fertilized egg or a partially formed fetus seems justified. Such thinking once justified slavery. As things stand, even a corpse has more rights than a woman in determining what can be done with its body.
Pregnancy and childbirth are inherently life threatening. Ob-gyn is a medical specialty for good reason. Malpractice insurance rates are the highest in the medical field because so many things can go wrong. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about abortion or “personhood” or when life begins. Anyone who cannot take on the life-changing physical, psychological, emotional, economic and social burdens of childbearing for a woman has no right to take over her decision making regarding it. If abortion is socially destructive, where is the evidence? If abortion is evil, why do opponents oppose family planning programs? Do women regret abortions? A few do, but they should take this up with the clergy who guilt-tripped them, not their legislators.
Abortion is a medical matter and should be dealt with as such. Roe v. Wade should have been decided that way. Instead, it spelled out in trimester terms what women actually do about an unwanted pregnancy. That only opened the way for “tinkering” that has produced so many restrictions that abortion is almost inaccessible for poor women. By deciding as it did, the Court implied that pregnant women are not free and have the legal standing of infants—incapable of making moral decisions and needing the hand of government to guide them. Most disturbingly, it established that the state has the authority to determine under what conditions a pregnancy may be terminated . . . or that it may not be . . . or that it must be.
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