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Comment of the Day


Lin Kaatz Chary

Norfolk, VA  January 26, 2016

Maybe it’s also about sex, but what it’s really about is maintaining control over women’s autonomy, child-bearing, and personal health decisions. All of which go to the heart of the ability of women to have an independent life in society, especially working class women and women who have no independent income of their own. Women who have no control over their own reproductive choices – and I don’t mean only through access to abortion as a last resort but through planning and contraception and education from the get go – typically have no control over when and with whom they choose to have sex, including in marriage. (Most people still don’t believe there can be such a thing as rape in marriage, for example, which may be an extreme case but certainly still occurs.) The ongoing attacks on Planned Parenthood are only marginally about access to abortion or Puritanism about sex in my opinion; they are far more about control and the reestablishment of a culture and society in which white men (not only, but in particular) feel more in control of home and family, etc. – an effort to take us back to the “Father Knows Best” and “Make Room for Daddy” days when if you were white and middle-class, life was so much simpler.

[17 Recommendations]

The above comment was one of nearly a thousand comments in response to an editorial entitled “Vindication for Planned Parenthood”, which discussed action taken by the Grand Jury in Harris County, TX.  This Grand Jury was convened in an attempt by the District Attorney to indict Planned Parenthood for something, anything… In response to the evidence presented, the Grand Jury refused to indict Planned Parenthood for anything at all.   Instead, they indicted the makers of the infamous “baby parts for sale” video for a felony, presenting false identification (a fake [non-official] California driver’s license that included their real photographs but used a false name and address) in its successful attempt to infiltrate the group.  A charge, a misdemeanor attempt to “purchase human organs” was brought forward, in response to an email that the makers of the video sent to Planned Parenthood that offered to buy fetal parts for $1,500 a sample; Planned Parenthood never responded to the email.

The response of Texas government officials to the indictment was predictably muted.  The District Attorney for Harris County stated, “I respect their decision on this difficult case.”  The Governor of Texas said that the Inspector General of the Texas Commission on  Health and Human Services and the Texas Attorney General have been investigating Planned Parenthood and that “Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation… The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

The state’s Attorney General said,  “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry. The state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is ongoing.”  He neglected to mention that abortion requires the death of a human fetus, nor that the rights of the woman involved were being violated by forcing her to carry her human fetus to term.

Naturally, the ethical considerations involved in the contemplation of abortion have been and are being ignored.  As I have stated here before, it is a simple matter of justifiable homicide: the fetus is attempting to take over the life of the pregnant woman and to force it to enslave herself to its care for eighteen or twenty-one years, not just endanger her own life for nine months.  The ethical requirement that one person save the life of another who has attached him or herself to her body without her consent simply is not there.

For example, let us describe a hypothetical situation: suppose you were to wake up one morning and find yourself attached to another person by tubing that runs from your arteries to its veins and back again.  Before you went to sleep, you had engaged in an act of sexual intercourse, but you had used the most effective means available to prevent any consequences (pregnancy); despite your precautions, the other human being has managed to attach itself to you.  The other human’s spokesperson tells you that you will be required to continue the attachment for another nine months, and at the end of that time, you will undergo an extremely painful procedure lasting about twelve to twenty-four hours that will result in separation.  After that, you will be required to support and nurture that human, to the exclusion of all other activities in your life, for another eighteen to twenty-one years.

The question is, can that other human ethically (never mind legally) force you to continue this arrangement?  Remember that you have not consented to the hookup; in fact, you have used whatever means necessary to prevent it.  The only thing you have done wrong is to engage in sexual intercourse, an activity that results in pregnancy less than three percent of the time even when no precautions have been taken.

The ethical answer to this question is NO.  Even if the other human has no recourse other than to hook itself to you, even if that human will die without your help, you are not ethically obliged to help them.  In the simplest case, we can drive past the scene of an auto wreck without stopping, even if we see another person lying bleeding on the street.  Naturally, most of us would volunteer to stop and offer whatever assistance we are capable of; however, we are not obliged to do so, even if we have special training in life-saving procedures.  This situation is far simpler than that of a pregnant woman: the woman is faced, not with momentary inconvenience or minor danger, but with giving up her entire life, her hopes for college or a well-paying job, or even her ability to feed the other children she may have.

These are the ethical and personal considerations that face a woman who has not consented to become pregnant.  The life of her “unborn child” (embryo or fetus) is weighed against her life, not just in a medical survival sense, but in the sense of taking on lifetime obligations to her offspring.

You may consider that it is selfish of a woman to choose her own life above that of her offspring.  That may be true.  However, there is no law against being selfish, or else the Koch brothers would not control billions of dollars in resources that could be better used to support the lives of thousands of other humans.  It seems that the anti-abortion fanatics are selective in whom they would require to be unselfish, or rather self-sacrificing.

There is no ethical requirement for a woman be sacrifice her self for the benefit of a child, not yet six months in the womb, that she does not want.  There is a legal requirement, enshrined in Roe v. Wade, that has withstood (so far) repeated attempts to overturn.  This judgement, while it may be accused of “judicial activism” set forward for the first time very clear dividing lines between constitutional and unconstitutional laws regarding abortion.  First, the judgement states that the law may not proscribe abortion at all during the first trimester (twelve weeks) of pregnancy.  Second, the law may only require that the facilities for providing abortion during the second trimester are medically suitable (safe for the mother.)  Third, the law may proscribe abortion during the third trimester, that is, after the fetus has become viable outside the womb.

When the judgement was written, it was generally believed that infants under twenty-four weeks gestational age had no chance of survival outside the womb.  This has changed somewhat; the chance of an infant under twenty four weeks of surviving has improved to about twenty-five percent.  Over half of all infants of this age who survive have already sustained major organ damage and will have a very limited life as well as reduced life expectancy.  These statistics relate to infants born to mothers who want them, not to survivors of abrupt delivery (such as might occur in an abortion.)  This is important because most pregnancies that are terminated this late are aborted because there is evidence on ultrasound of a serious anomaly, such as hydrocephalus, which is incompatible with life or with consciousness.

Those pregnancies that do not show serious anomalies that are aborted this late occur because there has been a delay in performing the abortion.  It would be highly unusual, not to say abnormal, for a woman to suddenly decide that she no longer wants a pregnancy at this late date.  Usually, the mother is under age and there have been delays in obtaining judicial permission or even in making the diagnosis of pregnancy.

The anti-abortion fanatics have tried to abuse science to the point at which they can claim that a twenty-week fetus can “feel pain.”  Such claims are as absurd as they are irrelevant.  Whether or not the condemned prison “feels pain” when he or she is executed seems to be a matter of indifference to these fanatics.  The idea that a developing fetus can “feel pain”, that the necessary nerves are hooked up to the point at which a conscious sensation of pain or suffering can be induced, is laughable.  If the possibility of pain is of concern to these hypocrites, they can ask that the fetus be given an overdose of anesthetic, such as is done in executions.  What is truly absurd is the thought that an anesthetic would have the same effect on a developing fetus as it would on an adult or even a child.

Such issues are irrelevant: the main point is that a woman has an absolute right to decide whether she wants to have a child or not.  No-one else can make that decision for her.  For societal safety and convenience, the Supreme Court has said that we may outlaw abortion after the development of viability, not to mention after a normal birth.  We have not yet, and may never, reach the point at which, as a society, we are so overpopulated that the life of a breathing, kicking infant can legally be ended.  We will likely never reach that point because the development of technology has reached the stage at which the mother can take a pill and, with pain and cramping, have a miscarriage before the eighth week of pregnancy.

The absurdity of the anti-abortion position has reached the level, in Texas, that the provision of normal health care to women has been grievously affected.  This has happened because the Texas legislature has defunded all women’s health care providers who are connected in any way with an abortion provider.  This has forced most Planned Parenthood clinics in the state to close and revealed that they are providing essential services to thousands of poor women who have no other resource.

This lack of contraceptive and pregnancy services has resulted in thousands of unintended pregnancies and deliveries, most of which result in increased payments by the state for health care and welfare services.  The Texas state government has estimated that they are liable for billions of dollars in costs for welfare and health care.  The problem was so huge that the Texas Legislature was forced to take remedial measures; unfortunately, once a clinic has been closed and its personnel have left for other jobs in other states, it is very difficult to re-assemble the clinical service because the personnel cannot be found.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Richard Steagall permalink
    2016-02-01 11:54 AM

    Worst ever? James McReynolds was anti-Semitic. He refused to engage in the customary handshake or speak to Jewish Justice Louis Brandeis


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