Sunday, January 29, 2006

It’s not always about religion

Here in Indiana a new bill relating to abortion has been introduced into the House. Under this proposed law, a doctor would have to inform the patient that 1. Life begins at conception, 2. there are physical risks involved both during and after the abortion, and 3. he would have to offer anesthetic for the fetus in late term abortions. The opposition has three arguments, two of which are subsidiary to their primary case: “The fundamental legal issue is whether or not the state can compel a physician or anybody to be its mouthpiece for delivering a message that is fraught with religious and moral value judgments that are not objective, truthful, nonmisleading facts,” said Roger Evans, a New York based lawyer for Planned Parenthood.

I believe that Planned Parenthood had better come up with a better argument than trying to play the church and state separation card in this case, because it’s a weak argument- I myself shot it down in a formal debate. When my opponent said that I couldn’t enshrine my religious beliefs into law, I had replied that I was an atheist, (this was many years ago) and was not trying to deprive her of the right to believe what she wished. My argument was based on Socratic Inquiry: What is the object being discussed? Obviously biological tissue of some nature; people do not conceive ceramic teapots. What type of tissue? DNA evidence says human tissue- and remember that DNA evidence is accepted in law. Is it part of the mother? No, DNA evidence says that it is a unique being, more closely related genetically to a sibling than to the mother carrying it. If it’s human tissue, is it a human being? Court precedent in cases involving the endangered species act held that an eagle’s egg is an eagle for purposes of the law; destroying an eagle egg is killing an eagle- surely it’s not a stretch to extend this ruling to other species. How long has it been genetically human and unique? Since conception. Quad erat demonstrandom.

I’m not saying that argument is the last word on the subject; I am saying that the arguments can be made absent any religious component. And, of course, I had also prepared the answer to that line of reasoning, as in these debates one didn’t know which side one would be arguing until one drew for it- that under many circumstances it is perfectly legal to take a human life; defense of self or others, etc. But this proposed law has no effect on the legality of abortion- it is only requiring the doctor to define exactly what is being aborted, and as I have shown, that is not necessarily a religious argument. The other three arguments their lawyer has are weaker still. First, that the freedom of speech includes the freedom to not speak. Actually, this is not true for a doctor; he is required to give the information necessary for the patient to make an informed decision- that most definitely includes the statement of risk at the very least. He also argues that the offering of anesthesia is an unwarranted intrusion into the practice of medicine because nobody can prove a fetus feels pain. While this may be true in the first few weeks, it’s an irrational thing to say about a fetus near or past the age of viability. Lastly, he argues that knowing these things would place an undue burden upon the mother. I know that the decision is a tremendous burden; I cannot follow the logic that heavy decisions are best dealt with in ignorance.

Can it be that it’s been so long since a NARAL or Planned Parenthood lawyer lost a case they’ve forgotten how to argue? If they don’t come up with something better than what’s been said so far, this bill will not only become Indiana law, it will also be upheld. In fact, I wonder if it will become required practice even absent passage into law- required by the doctor’s insurance company. Now that it’s being publicly discussed, a doctor had better say these things- to prevent a remorseful patient afterwards saying in a malpractice suit, “He never told me it was human or feels pain; now I’m suffering mental anguish.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Roe Vs Wade was bad law- not because of where they wound up, but because of how they got there. They didn’t have the moral courage to answer the tough questions they were put there to answer; what is human life, when does it begin, when does it end, how much does the caregiver owe to person they’re caring for, etc.- answers that would also have saved us from the Terri Schaivo mess and many others. They couldn’t stand on their hind legs and make a decision, so they invented “emanations of the penumbra” to get where they wanted to be while escaping any responsibility for making a decision... and thereby dooming us to keep struggling with it for who knows many more years.

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